Lessons from Early Adopters In Australia and New Zealand
‘M-Commerce’ for Parking
By Declan Ryan
No one could dispute the ubiquity and pervasiveness of smartphones in society today. Research published by the U.S. Federal Reserve in March 2015, reveals that 87% of the U.S. adult population has a mobile phone, and 71% of these are smartphones (Internet-enabled). Irrespective of the sophistication or development status of a nation, phone users are afforded ready access to the functionality of a myriad of applications that mobile technology has brought to a broad spectrum of the world’s population.
Among the hundreds of phone apps that budding entrepreneurs and software developers are foisting upon us, the concept of using smartphone as a wallet in lieu of “cash” or “credit cards” has resulted in an explosion of mobile payment solutions, or “M-Commerce.”
M-Commerce is responsible for facilitating convenience and access to transactions and services for almost any global citizen with access to a smartphone and an adequate telecommunications network.
The Federal Reserve states that, in the U.S., 22% of mobile phone users and 28% of smartphone users reported having used their phone for mobile payment in 2014. In December 2013, at least 33% of Australians age 18 and over were reported to have used their phone for a mobile shopping transaction. Recent research undertaken by Roy Morgan on M-Commerce use in Australia shows it soaring there and in New Zealand, which have always been early adopters of technology.
While take-up rates in M-Commerce activity across industry in general has been manic, the momentum in its application for parking services has until recent times been relatively glacial. The key reason for slow growth has been the reluctance of municipal parking managers to introduce such services to their constituents when it was unclear how M-Commerce could be implemented in a way that provided the city with the information that it needed.
M-Commerce obviously has an appeal to the end user, and up until now, mobile payment apps have concentrated on consumer adoption. However, technology solution providers are finally appreciating the need to ensure that the “business community” can integrate the payment solution with their existing operations and systems.
This has been particularly true for municipal parking managers, where the receipting of parking fees is directly linked to parking policy development and parking management and compliance operations. Insightful parking managers previously were reluctant to leap at M-Commerce payment systems without better understanding how these would integrate with their city’s existing suite of technologies and drive efficiencies for their parking operations.
Until recent times, when a city introduced M-Commerce as an alternative payment system, it actually resulted in additional work for parking enforcement officers and city management. PEOs were required to check valid parking meter payments against M-Commerce payments by cross-referencing two separate systems. Aside from the increased effort of manual checks, the additional workload and manual referencing resulted in human input errors.
When incorrect citations are issued, the public’s faith in the parking management erodes. It is a difficult task for a city to recover trust that has been lost due to process flaws. In the absence of a fully integrated system that would address the inefficiencies in manually cross-referencing two databases and false citations issued as a result of human error, parking managers have been reluctant to embrace and promote M-Commerce.
The lesson learned so far in Australia and New Zealand has proven that it is a “false dichotomy” to assume that the delivery of “B:C” payment solution would encourage managers to put their current practices and systems at risk simply to cater to an alternative method of paying for parking. We learned that the benefits and efficiencies of M-Commerce needed to be shared between the consumers of parking services and the providers of those parking services.
Parking managers told us at Database Consultants Australia (DCA) that if M-Commerce was going to be a part of the future, they required a fully integrated system that could be relied on and that could be extended in a way that was integral for the strategic planning requirements of their municipality. They saw little benefit in implementing a system that caused their PEOs to refer to two systems to validate that a consumer has paid for parking in order to prevent the issuing of false citations.
DCA’s Australian and New Zealand experience has shown that once cities understood that there was an M-Commerce payment solution that could be fully integrated with pre-existing citation management systems, the demand for such a solution grew strongly, and the level of M-Commerce activity for parking payment applications has since grown exponentially across the market.
PEOs need work with only one integrated system now. It seamlessly checks for valid parking payments as a background function, which prevents motorists from receiving incorrect citations. PEOs throughout Australia have embraced this innovation. Instead of bemoaning M-Commerce because of the additional work required to process citations, it is becoming the preferred method of payment for consumers and municipalities alike.
Since launching its M-Commerce solution, PayStay, some 10 months ago, Database Consultants Australia has deployed the service for clients across the four largest states in Australia, and will complete a national roll-out over the next six months.
M-Commerce may have started in parking as an alternative payment method to cash and credit cards; however, it’s quickly rising to be the preferred payment by both consumers and parking authorities.
There is little doubt that M-Commerce will pay a key role in a city’s future plans. It will underpin emerging activities such as variable pricing or preferred parking status to commercial or residential permit holders. It will bring into question the need for on-street hardware (such as parking meters and ticketing machines) and the maintenance costs and space utilization concerns associated with such hardware.
To effectively manage on-street parking resources, cities around Australia recognize the crucial need to seamlessly integrate with all forms of parking management technologies, including sensors, LPR, commercial and residential permits, meters and citation processing systems, as well as payment solutions.
Integration is providing cities with a wealth of data for more efficient and cost-effective parking management. And M-Commerce is an important part of that complete solution.
Declan Ryan, CEO of Melbourne-based Database Consultants Australia, can be reached at email@example.com.
For more information on the PayStay service, go to http://www.data.com.au.
PEOs were required to check valid parking meter payments against M-Commerce payments by cross-referencing two separate systems.