Israel: A Hotbed of Parking Technology
John Van Horn
Parking Today Editor John Van Horn visited Israel in July and returned with stories about four manufacturers and one parking operator.
For its size, Israel packs a solid parking technology punch. JVH visited HTS, TIBA, Parx Ltd. and Pango Inc., plus operator Central Park Ltd.
HTS (Hi-Tech Solutions) is a license plate recognition (LPR) system manufacturer in Yokneam, about an hour north of Tel Aviv. I was hosted by Meta Rotenberg, its VP of Marketing and Business Development, and Igal Dvir, the VP of Vehicle Recognition Systems.
We talked extensively about the market and how HTS approached it, both singly and as an OEM with parking manufacturers. They also have a large business in security and in the recognition of containers in shipping operations worldwide.
As the meeting drew to a close, Philip Elovic, the company’s CEO, joined us for a few minutes. He’s an impressive guy — an emigrant from the U.S., he, like Meta, who hails from Canada, came to Israel as a college-age adult and basically never looked back. His company is in a new, ultra-modern facility, halfway between two offices that were combined into one facility in the past year.
Keep your eye on HTS. You will be seeing it more and more in the U.S., particularly on PARC systems. The ability to read our myriad of license plates (more than 50 designs with different colors, fonts and structures) is within their capability, and with read rates in the high 90s, HTS is a company to watch.
TIBA is the Israeli PARCS manufacturer that seems to be taking the U.S. market by storm, at least in the Southeast and Midwest (more than 30 systems installed in the past year in the Chicago area alone).
My hosts here were company President Isaac Tavori and Erez Cohen, Software Development Manager. Tavori founded the company some 25 years ago and partnered with the larger Afcon Holdings in 2002. The TIBA factory is a part of Afcon’s operations in a Tel Aviv suburb, where they manufacture heavy industrial equipment.
Tavori sat in an office that telegraphed his hands-on approach. His desk was covered with design documents and circuit boards. “I cleaned it just for you,” he told me, then laughed. He and Cohen are committed. “Our soul and our blood are in this product,” Cohen said. And he means it.
“We started slowly in 2006 in Atlanta,” he said. “We made some progress and ensured that we had the support on the ground to properly take care of our customers. We made the adjustments necessary to the product to fit the U.S. market.
The few minutes we spent with Jerry Schenirer, the CEO of Alcon Holdings, TIBA’s parent, was telling. This charming man knows his stuff about parking and is committed to the US market. “We started slowly in 2006 in Atlanta. We made some progress and ensured we had the support on the ground to properly take care of our customers. We made the adjustments necessary to the product to fit the US market. We have had some good success in Chicago and other markets, and now we are ready.”
I took that to mean, “Look out, USA, here comes TIBA.”
I visited Parx, manufacturer of in-car meters, with Sandra Smith, head of parking for Whistler, BC. She is a customer of Parx, and a longtime friend of its CEO, Arnon Efrati. Sandra and I left Tel Aviv early. We had a two and a half hour drive to Rosh-Pina, in the far north of the country, about 10 miles from Lebanon.
Parx is a division of OTI (On Track Innovations), a high-tech manufacturer. Its facility is ultra-modern, upscale, and fully self-contained. Employees ate at the company canteen and relaxed at the in-house gym. OTI takes care of its own.
Efrati discussed the evolution of his product and how it fits into the parking environment. He is frustrated by his inability to introduce the product into North America (Smith is one of his few customers), but proud of his success in Europe, the Middle East, Australia and Asia.
The meters are slick. You can program them online (USB port) or through a smartcard that you can top up at locations throughout the municipality using the technology. Just enter the zone where you are parking, turn it on and put it in your window. Enforcement officers see it running, and you don’t get a citation. If it times out, you do. The beauty for the municipality is that they get the parking fees upfront and the users don’t have to deal with meters, pay-and-display, or credit cards and coins.
His company also has an extremely complete pay-by-cellphone system which is running worldwide. Efrati doesn’t spend a lot of time promoting it: “A city wanting to use the system simply contacts me, I give them a password, and they are good to go. It’s an easy way to get to know this technology with no commitment.”
Pango, that pay-by-cellphone company you see popping up hither and yon in the US, has its technology based in Kadima, a Tel Aviv suburb. I met with company CEO Zion Harel and Maoz Tenenbaum, VP of Sales and Business Development. Their offices are in a business park, and the GPS in my car was confused, so Harel simply leaned out the window, waved a friendly hand, and pointed to a parking space.
Pango’s biggest success story is Tel Aviv and a number of smaller cities in Israel, where more than 60% of the parking revenue is captured by the system. They have developed a smartphone app that makes using the system a snap.
I was particularly impressed with their program, just launched by their U.S. Licensee Neil Edwards, that focuses on off-street locations, enabling pay-by-cell for major parking operations. The first was at a major shopping center in Phoenix. They also have locations in Auburn, NY, and in Latrobe and Scranton, PA. The company is opening its off-street app at an Impark location in Manhattan.
Pango’s other franchisee is Dani Shavit, an Israeli expat who handles Pennsylvania, Maryland and DC.
These four companies aren’t competitors, but they all have a similar feel. Their products are state-of-the-art, their marketing is aggressive, and they all are looking with focused eyes at the North American market.
They are developing local representation, have excellent support teams in place, and can back up their claims with action.
If Erez Cohen, who lives on a kibbutz near Gaza and has to dodge rockets from time to time, and Dani Shavit, who is a former officer in the Israel Defense Forces, say their blood and soul are in their products, they mean it.
everywhere in Israel
Sunday is the beginning of the workweek in Israel, and for me it began with the renewing of my friendship with Amit Kedem, CEO of Central Park, a parking operator and consulting firm that runs 30 locations in Tel Aviv.
Kedem attended a PIE a few years back and proudly shows back issues of Parking Today where he has annotated many stories that he said are “the basis of his company” and his “professional life.” His comments were a great birthday present and left me humbled.
“I purposely keep the company small,” Kedem said. “What value is there to have a lot of locations and make no money on them? I would rather bring value to my customers. I spend most of my time working to fill the garages during off-peak hours. We market the garages every day. I see money that comes in during those times as found money. It costs us little, and even if we offer big discounts, it means a lot.”
Kedem also spoke with great pride about his “bank card” marketing ploy. He cut a deal with a local bank. Any bank customer entering any of his locations after 4 p.m. can park for free. The bank pays the parking charges.
“It’s terrific,” he said. “The parker swipes their bank-issued card (debit or credit), and the system goes to the bank’s database and finds out if they are a customer. If yes, the gate opens and they can park. They exit the same way. I have a record of the transaction and bill the bank (at a discounted rate) at the end of the month.
“The bank loves the program,” Kedem said. “They spent millions advertising it with my logo and telling folks that if they sign up for a card, they too can park for free. They are playing on the understanding that everyone wants something for nothing. My bills to the bank aren’t small, but they love it. You would be surprised how many people sign up just so they can park all over Tel Aviv for free.”
Kedem introduced me to Inbal Mor Assayag, CEO of Pink Park, a company that enables merchants and individuals with very small parking lots (3-10 spaces) to sell their spaces on a daily basis to folks who want to park in the area.
The box at the bottom is a sensor that communicates with her office to let her know if the space is available or not. If it is taken during a time when it should be empty or when it has not been reserved (by a smartphone app), she will descend on the space and the driver won’t like the result.
Assayag is a hardworking CEO, handling issues and customers virtually 24/7. She spent most of our dinner with Kedem tapping on her phone and approving spaces, and dealing with customers. She has 250 spaces under contract, with many more to come.
Assayag and Kedem are the faces of entrepreneurial Israel – smart, hardworking, dedicated.
Amit Kedem, in the control room at his Central Park offices,
said he doesn’t spend a lot of time watching his staff
at work – “only if I think there is a problem.”
Inbal Mor Assayag, and one of her Pink Park sensors, is shown
in at of the 250 parking spaces her company controls.
Article Abstract from September, 2013