A New Technology for Parking
LTE From Bluetooth
By Lawrence Berman and Grant Holland
We are forever hearing these days of the inexorable rise in the number of issues associated with parking meters and mobile payments. Although the parking industry has steadily become more advanced from a technological perspective, both the public and parking operators are facing many challenges.
These run from concerns about mobile payment security to not being able to find a working meter, and many others. Costs continue to rise as equipment and processing fees become more complex. Revenue falls as payments become more complicated and risky.
Credit card-enabled parking meters are common today. Globally, daily credit card transactions number in the billions. Yet it seems that a day doesn’t go by when a credit card security breach is announced, and tens of millions of users are once again thrown into a state of worry regarding their financial security and personal identity.
Credit card-enabled parking meters all have common components. They must have a credit card reader and they must be connected to the Internet. Both of these are huge security risks.
Another typical scenario has a person finding an open space at a meter, searching for quarters or using a credit card to pay for their time.
Over the past decade, several companies have entered the market offering a cellphone payment solution enabling a parker to use an IVR or QR code system to pay for parking. These subscription services have the user’s credit card information on file and charge the account for the requested time.
This seems more secure, as no personal information is transmitted between the meter and the payment provider. Since there is no way to confirm the transaction on the meter itself, enforcement is done by scanning the QR code on a meter, or requesting of paid spaces in a zone on a cellphone or handheld to the central server
Studies have shown that the number of violations written decreases by as much as 20% due to the increased amount of time the enforcement officer needs to validate payment when it is not displayed on the meter.
As parking meters become more technologically advanced, their power requirements also increase. A single 9-volt battery may last as long as a year but typically much less. All of the associated costs with a dead battery in a meter can be staggering. Lost revenue, dispatching a crew to change the battery, disputes on tickets written on “dead” meters, and battery disposal costs all must be considered.
The estimated costs associated with a single-space meter battery replacement average around $125 per year, if replaced once and $245 if replaced twice a year.
So, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to provide a meter with a long-lasting battery and a secure mobile payment platform, allowing a parker to use their smartphone to choose the duration and location and instantly receive confirmation via a display on the meter?
We at Clear Token Inc. have a cost-effective, easy-to-install answer. Our Power Pack / Mobile Payment Platform will solve this problem.
The device can be installed in a standard meter in a matter of minutes and is instantly available to transact mobile payments. Also, the patented high-security process makes it virtually impossible to have someone “spoof” the signal or send a false code to improperly add time on the meter.
Because the device is “agnostic” to the user, all cellphone payment providers can use the system, enabling a parker to carry their subscription to any location and still make the payment using their current provider. Also, the device does not have to be connected to the Internet. So all the costs and technology issues associated with having connected devices in the field are eliminated.
The Clear Token device solves the battery problem as well. The power pack contains a dozen 12-volt batteries configured to extend the life to an estimated 7 to 10 years.
Once the device is installed, the meters will operate for years without need for replacement. The parking operator is able to avoid all the costs associated with dead batteries. The power pack can be fitted to any single-space meter without affecting its operation.
The simple process is based on Bluetooth LTE (long-term evolution) technology. We recognize that everyone with a smartphone carries the Internet with them. As a parker approaches a Clear Token-enabled parking meter, a connection is made between the meter and the user’s smartphone. The application on the smartphone recognizes the meter, knows the rates and location, and sends a request for a payment approval.
Once the approval is given, the device will display the meter as “paid.” Enforcement is easy: The paid status is displayed both on the sidewalk and roadside of the meter. Payment can be made while the user is in his vehicle, as the device’s range is set to work at 50 feet.
The same technology can be used with in-vehicle meters, and those on a sign or at a gate. An operator can transform any lot into a revenue-generating facility simply by installing a Clear Token device. (Remember, an Internet connection is not required.)
With this technology, many in the parking industry will benefit.
Municipalities will realize reduced costs with much longer battery life. Maintenance personnel can be assigned to more critical duties. Meters display time as paid, dramatically increasing the efficiency of enforcement. Disputes over citations for parking at a non-functioning meter will disappear.
Operators will be able to transform aging equipment into the 21st century by enabling mobile payments without costly equipment upgrades. Non-revenue producing properties become paid lots with an easy-to-install and low-cost module application.
Lawrence Berman and Grant Holland are associated with Clear Token Inc. and can be reached through www.cleartoken.com.