Permits & Enforcement in ‘the Modern Age’
Innovation, integration and the smartphone
By Chris Genung
The last 20 years have seen leaps and bounds in technological advancements, both in terms of software connectivity and online tools, and the hardware available to help us manage and enforce parking regulations. Not only that, but the way in which parking administrators, as well as their customers, have embraced new technology is astounding.
Who would have thought, less than 25 years ago, one could log onto an Internet site and purchase parking? Or walk up to a steel box and type in a parking space number or license plate number, and walk away knowing you were permitted to park?
Pay-by-phone? Excuse me? I didn’t even own a cellphone back then, let alone imagine a phone with Internet access built in. Back then, integration between software databases was batch-file processes that were manually run or had complicated scripts designed to send or retrieve data files.
Now, we in the parking industry integrate with many different databases in various modes. Some in real-time, others batch processes that are automated, requiring minimal user intervention. Like everyone in the industry, our company, AIMS, has had to evolve with the ever-changing times.
Today, in the industry, we find complete parking ticket and permit management applications. Back-office software provides customer service representatives the tools they need to service patrons, sell permits, assign and bill tickets, and so forth.
Permit sales days used to mean customers lined up as far as the eye could see – a very slow and monotonous process filled with angry, unhappy customers. Nobody liked it! The advent of the Internet changed all that.
These systems provide functionality to create permit availability rules. Database integration has had a significant impact in the way permits are sold. Interfacing with HR, student accounts, housing databases and others allows us to properly identify the customer.
If the software can determine where they can park, then the customers can be trusted to purchase their own permits online. Permits are processed and mailed by the back-office staff, or you can contract with your permit vendor for direct permit assignment and fulfillment services.
These processes are nothing new, but please bear with me.
My point is that the advent of the Internet provided new ways to sell permits and offers increased productivity. Since then, we have seen pay-by-plate and pay-by-space meters, pay-by-phone parking, and license plate recognition (LPR) systems enter the market. Now, the customer has many options available to make it easy for them to purchase parking.
Smart-meters provide quick, temporary parking, often sharing space with traditional permit holders. LPR systems provide for permit-less parking. These new technologies have increased ease of parking for the customer, but they have created some problems for enforcement.
Ruggedized handheld computers have been on the market for decades. These are good at searching data files in order to identify the validity of permit holders or “hot sheet” violators, while writing tickets and timing vehicles.
Most units on the market today still use batch data syncing, even though real-time capable devices have been available for more than a decade.
This is about to change.
Effective, low-cost cellular data plans, as well as hardware improvements in smartphones and their operating systems, have become a reality. The missing piece between enforcement and smart-meter or LPR permitting is now available, thanks to real-time integration between these databases.
Recently introduced, a new mobile app solves the problem of enforcing smart-meter permit purchases and identifying violator “hits” from an LPR system.
This is Android app operates on smartphones, which provide an inexpensive alternative to ruggedized handheld computers. Beyond that, smartphones are multipurpose devices. Real-time enforcement is more than parking ticket issuance and electronic timing. Pay-by-plate, pay-by space and pay-by-phone data are now available right from within the same app that your enforcement personnel are using to write citations.
The enforcement application programming interface (API) gathers parking data from smart-meter or pay-by-phone databases, and makes this data available in real-time to the AIMS Mobile Ticketer App.
It’s nice to have the citation available for immediate payment, for sure, but the real improvements are in data integration. Not only can your field personnel be confident whether a vehicle can be booted or towed, now they have access to reliable parking data to make informed decisions on suspected violators.
The most exciting aspect of LPR lies with the enforcement piece. The integration is two-way. The information AIMS passes to your LPR database includes your permitted customers, hot sheet data and transient parkers.
The transient parkers are fed into the system from your smart-meters or pay-by-phone interface. These are treated as temporary permit holders and identified as eligible parkers for the life of the permit by your LPR system.
When your LPR system identifies a violator, the “hit” is sent to the system. This is available in real-time to your mobile ticketers. Think of it this way: You can now separate your enforcement personnel from your LPR vehicle, allowing you to cover more ground and enforce your properties more effectively. The hits data are displayed on a map within the ticketer app and identifies the location of the violator within a matter of feet.
I’ve mentioned integration with smart-meters, LPR systems and pay-by-phone companies, but have not mentioned names. AIMS can partner with almost any that can send data via web services or some other real-time mode. That includes all the major companies on the market today.
No matter which access control, LPR, smart-meter or pay-by-phone company works best for you, rest assured that the AIMS Mobile Ticketer App can interface with them. It plays nice with everyone!
Chris Genung, Sales Manager for AIMS (www.aimsparking.com), can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article Abstract from October, 2013