Easing Regulations Via a Parking Web Portal?
By Amalendu Chatterjee
Meter technology and the proprietary parking access and revenue control system (PARCS) have been with us for more than 75 and 40 years, respectively. Both have served the industry well. But the civility in the parking industry relative to other public services, such as telephone, electricity, airline or even city water, is questionable these days.
No doubt, these technologies have become very sophisticated, complying with many regulations, yet driving operations costs high.
For examples, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has changed the telecommunication industries; online reservations and boarding pass/check-ins the airline industries; and mobile e-commerce has done the same for financial transactions.
These innovations have resulted in cheaper and more customer-friendly paradigms with new applications/services as never before.
One such technology is under discussion for the parking industry – the so-called Public Web Portal (PWP). In my last PT article, “Can the Parking Industry Ease Regulations and Bring Civility?” (December 2012), many regulatory issues were raised with no specific technological solution. This article presents a view of the PWP (IT infrastructure) as a way to ease parking regulations, including “green” initiatives and other new service paradigms.
The World Wide Web and its derivative, the Web Portal, have become buzzwords among today’s software technologies.
Well-designed portal platforms using “open source” products and tools can create tremendous online real-time business opportunities – mostly free. Public web portals are also seen as sources of integrated and shared applications for public well-being, such as education, an information repository and exchange of ideas. Advertising capabilities via the web portal have also been proven to offset some of the development cost of modern portal technology. Facebook, Google and Yahoo! are such examples.
In simple terms, a “parking web portal” can be defined as serving “a gateway or a main entry point (‘cyberdoor’) to the Internet” for a specific parking industry field-of-interest, functions and features.
Further clarifications of terminologies such as website (a location in cyberspace), web domain (specific name or identification in cyberspace), web search engine (use of smart programs in the cyberspace to search for specific) information) and web portal (integration and consolidation of executable software programs in the cyberspace to provide services to the public) are possible.
The technological outlook for the parking industry can now be transformed with such innovative solutions.
Configuration of a Parking PWP
A parking public web portal starts with transitioning hardware devices into standard web-enabled software modules. Each module is designed to act coherently, replacing proprietary/closed hardware – on-street meter (single, multispace or pay-and-display) and PARCS elements (consoles, detectors, fee display terminal, ticket spitters, barriers).
A base software module is introduced to glue all regulations/scofflaws of relevant parking functions. A robust computer network and IT infrastructure act as a host to all these software modules.
A basic configuration will execute today’s required parking functions, with added flexibilities for future modules integration. The parking web portal thus configured will last several decades, with integrated service capabilities never designed and built before.
Designers may choose different architecture for a parking web portal, but an example of a simple implementation is provided to make a case:
Online and real-time distributed software modules, shown in Figure 1, integrate all parking functions, replacing hardware devices in the field.
A server acting as a host for all software modules configured and executed in an IP network infrastructure.
Open source products, tools and databases integrate all applications/software to evolve.
Regulatory/scofflaw module checks the relevance of parking functions for compliance.
Open secured network connects all necessary devices (mobile or stationary), relevant databases and end user using Internet shown in Figure 2 with different levels of user protections beyond network security.
Figure 1: Possible Software Modules for a PWP
With a parking web portal will come major paradigm changes in the industry. Those changes will bring many enhancements, such as business practice and process efficiency (plus online resolution of problems); software automation to reduce hardware cost (reduced labor-intensive practices); no cash handling (cashless meter-less parking); work sharing between the administration and parkers such as airlines (online payments, home-printed boarding passes and reservations, reducing CO2 emissions and traffic congestion; online education and training, with instant update of information; state-of-the-art software technology deployment; increased revenues and customer satisfaction from new services; and easing of regulations.
The champion of all paradigm changes is the framework to easing regulations. Regulatory paradoxes are grouped into two: (1) relaxation or elimination of old, unfriendly and rigid regulations; and (2) introduction of new but more user-friendly and flexible regulations.
A dynamic parking service platform of a public web portal can execute current and future regulations of all parking service offerings. Full potentials are left out for future innovations.
Highlights of easing old and rigid regulations via a PWP include:
A web registration process for an account with a personal identification (PIN) for mobility.
Ability of parker to access account with UID and PWD.
Meter-independent parking using home-printed pass.
Eliminating court and police resources for simple parking violations.
Online real-time interactions to avoid office visits by parkers.
Highlights of more user-friendly and flexible future regulations via a PWP include:
Advance collections as parkers take advantage of online reservations
Lessening direct contact of enforcement officers and parkers to avoid unpleasant encounters.
Databases by categories of availability by space, rate and taxes.
Defining a national way-finding system to locate available open parking spaces and directions to get there.
Parking kiosks in key city locations or interstate corridors for payments, receipts or other real-time activities.
Virtualization of a parking web portal for on-demand, customized VIP services needs serious attention by industry leaders. It could be orchestrated to reduce dependency on sophisticated hardware and its spiraling costs. Such a software-oriented parking solution will enhance efficiency, security and automation for customer satisfaction.
Parking services must belong to the open world of other service providers (utilities, communications, etc.) with pride and dignity, and with no loss of functions, features and revenues. Easing obsolete regulations and initiating more parker-friendly new regulations will go a long way toward modernizing the parking industry with civility.
Amalendu Chatterjee, VP-Technology at EximSoft International, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article Abstract from February, 2013