“Wow” and the IPI

I sat out on the last day of the IPI show to find new products. You know the ones that make you go “wow.” If “wow” means something that will change the face of the industry (Like a prox cards, Pay by Credit Card or Pay on Foot) then I failed. The comments I heard from many attendees and exhibitors was that a lot of the products were “same old same old” and others were similar to existing products, but with new outside designs. That is, new paint, new ‘skins’, new “look” but not a lot of new technology.

In Europe, the major shows are scheduled on an every other year basis. Manufacturers use these events as a ‘launch’ for new products. We like to think that technology moves rapidly, however in our industry it’s a tad more glacial. It’s one thing to develop a cell phone that is also a camera, computer, and gameboy with your potential marketplace at a billion users. Huge upfront investment is made based on a high end outcome. Pushing the product to market is necessary and desirable.

However when your potential market is limited in a niche like parking, things move more slowly. Often mockups are shown at trade shows to gauge a reaction, and then adjustments are made as the product finds its way to market and design flaws which went unnoticed in the lab now become apparent. This process on an every other year schedule can mean that new ideas can be test ‘shown’ at the show and then either put forward or dropped over the upcoming 24 months, a ‘final’ product can be displayed or a new set of ideas put forward.

When the show runs every year, the manufacturers are hard pressed to keep ahead of the ‘wow’ factor. Often a year isn’t enough time to forge a new product or take a new design from the drawing board to ‘reality.”

That being said, I do think that some manufacturers made great progress where product enhancement is concerned.

For instance, Park Assist is a parking guidance company that is partnering with Amano McGann. Last year their product, based on using CCTV to determine open parking spaces and red/green lights to guide parkers to them added a new twist. The camera would ‘read’ your license plate and then you could enter the plate when you paid and the system would tell you where your car was parked.

This year, Park Assist added a LPR camera on entry. When you arrive, your license number was ‘attached’ to the ticket you received on entry. When you leave, the process of inserting your ticket at a Pay on Foot also called up your vehicle and presented a picture of the location of your car. No need to enter a plate number (and perhaps key it in improperly). It’s fast and efficient.

Another such example is the Luke II by Digital Payment Technologies. The company took their successful “Luke” product and expanded on a theme. The new P and D machine enabled you to pay by cell and then be notified by text when your time is nearing completion, and enabled you to update your payment from your phone, if allowed. The new product has many enhancements in design in both the way money is handled and the robust nature of the enclosure.

I noted that virtually all single space meter companies were providing a “pay by credit card” facility on their meters. Let’s face it, the market was crying for this technology, one company led the pack, and now others are bringing the enhancement to their products.

Many companies added EV charging stations to their product lines. It was difficult to walk down an aisle without seeing these in abundance. Some supplied the stations as standalone units to be purchased by garages as benefits for potential parkers while other companies (like revenue control) saw them as add ons so their equipment could collect money from the charging stations as well as for parking. Brand spanking new? No, there were a number of such stations last year. However many manufacturers jumped on the sustainability band wagon and provided these products.

Reduce expenses and become ‘green’ by selecting lighting that uses less power. Pay your monthly parking at a POF with a credit card. In street sensors will provide data for occupancy and rate determination. Cloud computing was noted in a number of booths – locate your computer hardware off site and do away with the limitations of on-site data centers. It was all there.

Next year, expect some of these products to have been moved aside, and others to take their places. Perhaps I am jaded, but for me “wow” is when a company takes a product and makes it better, makes it work, and makes it fit the marketplace. I saw some of those. And I did say “wow”.

JVH

This article was underwritten by ACS, A Xerox Company.

 

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