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Cloud-based Integration: The Key to Future Parking Innovation

March 10, 2021

Michael Doherty

The parking industry has been rapidly adopting new technology in recent years as the development of cutting-edge services and technology continues to grow. Smart parking sensors utilize the Internet of Things to reduce the amount of time drivers spend searching for an available parking space. Pay-as-you-use systems make it simpler for drivers to manage their parking sessions, and license plate recognition technology removes the need for window stickers and makes compliance easier to enforce.


Integration makes things much easier for the customer, but it’s even better for the parking provider. 


However, behind all that innovation, some parking providers are still hesitant to merge together the many sources of data and services used in their parking management processes. Whether it’s due to parking technology companies resisting working with perceived competitors or the amount of effort involved in stitching together legacy systems, many parking operators are still relying on outdated and cumbersome systems behind the scenes. While they may be quick to embrace the latest technology on the ground, by keeping their data in silos they are missing out on the significant advantages of cloud-based integration.


Car Parks in the Cloud


A huge amount of data goes into parking management sourced from both the users and the providers. For example, there are payment solutions for on- and off-street parking with different tariffs depending on time parked. For permit systems, permit holder details need to be recorded and updated year after year. Different zones and user groups introduce another layer of complexity. And compliance comes with another set of data requirements – timestamped photographs of license plates, records of infringements issued, and a way to escalate unpaid infringements to authorities are all part of the process.


User IDs, permit numbers, payment records, license plate numbers, zoning details and tariffs – that’s a lot of data to be holding in separate systems when it would be so much more efficient to bring them together.


The number one benefit of introducing a cloud-based data solution in a complex parking management environment is the huge efficiencies it allows through connecting these disparate data sources in real-time. Any last remaining paper-based systems, such as permit applications or dashboard tickets, can be brought online. Permit and parking session details can be connected to a license plate, which in turn can be connected to a staff, student or resident ID, and in turn again with a more efficient compliance system.


Integration makes things much easier for the customer, but it’s even better for the parking provider, who no longer has to waste staff hours on cross-checking systems and working through annual renewal bottlenecks, and can see at a glance how the different elements of their parking system are performing through simplified reporting.


Cloud-based systems also have the advantage of providing live data, helping providers track parking usage and plan for the future. They also have the ability to be integrated with third party platforms and apps, and offer better security than local data storage. 


Case Study: Monash University


A great example of how an integrated cloud-based data solution can transform a provider’s approach to parking is Monash University.


Monash is one of Australia’s top universities, but its location in the city’s outer suburbs means that driving is often the preferred transportation method for staff and students. Until recently, demand for staff permits outstripped supply, and permit registrations were managed manually via a spreadsheet. Many staff paid for their permits through payroll, and there were long lines at the start of each year for staff wanting to apply or pay for their permits.


Meanwhile, students had to rely on old fashioned dashboard tickets with many of them having to rush out of class early to top up their parking. Monash’s compliance system was similarly archaic.


It was a system in dire need of an overhaul. We introduced a number of integrated solutions to solve the problem. First of all, we implemented our virtual permit system to eliminate the need for windscreen stickers and long lines for applications. Staff were able to log in to a centralized platform where they could apply for their permits and connect them to the license plate numbers of whatever vehicles they drive to work. And we tailored the payment system to offer salary sacrifice as a payment option.


We also replaced the old ticket system with a natively contactless, pay-as-you-go system connected to an app, allowing drivers to pay for their parking sessions online and only pay for the exact time parked. The university’s compliance system was upgraded to a license plate recognition system, and we even installed LPR technology on a boom-gated VIP car park to eliminate the need for prox cards.


All of Monash’s legacy parking systems were now folded into one, which was also integrated with their existing single sign-on platform, Okta, and carpooling app Liftango. The university has reported a significant reduction in the number of staff hours spent on parking administration, particularly at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown in Victoria when staff were requesting refunds on their permits. That situation would have been an administrative nightmare prior to integration.


It’s Time to Move Forward


There is still so much innovation to come in the parking industry, but the reluctance to embrace data integration is holding it back. Cloud-based data solutions eliminate redundancies and improve the overall efficiency of products. They ensure system scalability and greater longevity as changes can be implemented almost instantaneously, and reduce capital expense in the long term.


The restriction of data synchronization and the industry’s inability to create a cohesive tech ecosystem is inhibiting the potential for new parking technology and the widespread adoption of smarter parking solutions. It’s time for the industry to reach for the cloud.


 


Michael Doherty, Head of Business Development for Smarter City Solutions. He can be reached at michael.d@smartercity.com.au



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