An Interview: Yves Chambeau of Parkeon"We are no longer alone in the market; we now have to compete.” Parkeon’s Yves Chambeau was describing the changes his company was making in its worldwide operations. “We have 60% of the pay-and-display market, and at one time, when we were Schlumberger, we were all there was. Today, it’s different.”
Parking Today spoke with the company’s chairman and CEO at Intertraffic Amsterdam 2008 in April.
“Parkeon is growing and changing,” Chambeau said. “Take the U.S. market. We are moving manufacturing and research and development to our North American operations. We are becoming self sufficient in the U.S.
“I don’t want Parkeon to be perceived as a European company. We must listen to our customers and be as close to them as possible, and then be able to react quickly to their needs. We must have a culture that matches theirs.
“We are expanding our approach to the marketplace with a global parking management solution. Pay-and-display is only one way to sell the right to park a car. There are different channels for that solution, and all those channels need to be managed.
“Companies that will exist tomorrow must be able to integrate all technologies. The market demands an integrated solution. Asia, for instance, is for all intents a cashless society. The core business is system integration and processing collections. We see this approach coming quickly to the U.S. Whether its pay-and-display, pay-by-cellphone, in-car connectivity – all the systems have to be integrated.”
The chief exec says “mobility” is the key word. The idea that a person can move from parking to the train or bus, and then to a concert or retail store, and use the same payment technology is most important.
“This isn’t years in the future,” Chambeau said. “In many places around the world, it’s now. ...”
“Our central ‘hub’ allows our customers to continue to use their long-term equipment providers and still receive the information needed in one place where it can be in a form that fits their needs. We are talking to our customers and reacting to that conversation.”
Chambeau spoke about innovation. Parkeon spends 7% of its gross sales annually on research and development. “Our customers have an expectation that our equipment will be very reliable. As we change our designs to fit the needs of a changing market, we must keep that reliability first in our minds.”
A major issue with on-street devices is power. Ninety percent of all pay-and-display equipment produced by Parkeon is solar powered, he said. “Power consumption is a major issue. We must reduce power consumption of the equipment so we can use smaller and more efficient solar panels. We are constantly working to extend the battery life.
“A major concern of pay-and-display customers is battery replacement. Even if a piece of equipment is solar powered, batteries must be included to provide power when solar power is unavailable. These batteries have a finite life and need to be periodically replaced. This is not only an expensive process, but can be an environmental nightmare. By designing electronics that use less and less power, the useful life of the batteries can be extended,” Chambeau said.
“And to reduce fraud, your equipment must be online so that each credit card transaction is approved as it is used. This means we must have communications that work in sometimes very hostile environments.”
Another aspect of technology stressed by Chambeau is that when the equipment is online, enforcement is easier. “We understand that when real-time information is available, particularly with pay-by-space, enforcement officers can be directed to problem areas. This means better, more consistent enforcement, and an overall better parking operation.”
The human interface is important. Chambeau pointed out that his company focuses on ergonomics. “We do this research close to the customer base that uses the equipment. Americans may approach the equipment differently than Europeans. We have to be aware of those differences and incorporate them into our machines.”
Parkeon, and its predecessor Schlumberger, have 35 years of experience and are active in fare collection as well as parking. “We take this experience in two markets and are able to transfer technology that we develop for one into the other,” he said.
With more than 10,000 pay-and-display meters installed in the U.S., the chief exec of the Paris-based company said it only makes sense to become a U.S.-based company for the U.S. market.
“We have made many changes in our U.S. operations, and that includes personnel as well as our technology base. Our New Jersey operation looks considerably different than it did just a couple of years ago. We are evolving from a product supplier to a systems integrator.”
Chambeau said his company would be introducing its new line of Strada equipment at this month’s IPI convention in Dallas.