The Future Is Now: Science Fiction Becomes Reality in Parking

May 8, 2017

The 21st  Century is quickly living up to the fantastic expectations of past generations.  Over 100 years ago authors such as Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell and Jules Verne began creating visions of the future that would later be further illustrated on television and in movies. Technology like televisions, video phones, tablets, and even credit cards were conceptualized by creative story tellers decades before they actually existed. Today all of those advancements are available on a miniature computer that connects the user to the entire world – your smart phone.  The smart phone continues to be the ‘wave of the future’ and the parking industry is constantly balancing on the board riding that wave.

With that singular device that fits in your pocket you can not only watch television, but it is practically a television studio that allows you to broadcast live video from just about anywhere. Your phone is your computer with access to your email and the virtually endless possibilities of the internet. It is your personal guide with global positioning and navigation functions which help you get anywhere – including finding parking lots and garages and even telling you where parking spaces are available!  This device has more recently become your wallet, allowing you to pay for a large variety of goods and services – including parking! Or you can hail a cab service, get a ride, and pay for that ride – all with an app on that same phone.   And let’s not forget that it is still a phone – more than just a phone, really, but it is a phone that connects you with voice, video, and text to everywhere in the world!

What will the “next big thing” be in the ever changing world of parking? The parking industry grows and evolves with the economy and consumer demands surrounding it. Keith Lynch, Vice President of SKIDATA, Inc. says, “The trend continues to be with phone apps.  There are refrigerators that allow you to see inside with an app, there are entire home control devices that allow you to change your thermostat or unlock your doors with an app.  Clearly smart phone integration and apps will be a big part of whatever parking’s next big thing is.”

An early version of the intercom allowing communication between the driver in the lane and the control center within a parking garage was simply a telephone system.  As the telephone morphed into VOIP and Cellular the intercom has changed dramatically – the hardware becomes smaller while at the same time capable of more.

In the world of technology, fantasy often inspires or dictates reality.  Every element of Parking Access and Revenue Control is composed of technology and innovation. One invention of literature and cinema that many would love to see is the teleportation device.  As global travel becomes easier and faster we all try to do more and go to more places. Maybe someday a teleportation device will send people or objects to any location around the world (or universe) immediately! But wait, what if teleportation devices already exist?  What if I told you that you are already using one?

Consider this – everything you can access, watch, read, do, find, and interact with on your phone was once only available if you were in person and in front of it. Once not long ago you had to stand with a person to talk to them, you had to travel to a theater and sit in the audience for entertainment, you read a map to find your way. If you think that’s a stretch – what about holding a credit card in your hand – something that is optional today that was a requirement just a few years ago!

How does this relate to the wonderful world of parking? You used to have to be physically on site to pull a ticket to guarantee your parking space. If you were attending an event you needed to have your ticket mailed to you and in hand to be admitted.  These tangible pieces are a thing of the past.  Going to a ticket vendor and saving that ticket for the day of the event is no longer necessary. The recent improvement that allowed you to print the ticket at home is not even a requirement when you have E- Tickets available on your phone that you either purchased on your phone or sent to your phone when making the reservation or purchase elsewhere.

SKIDATA’s sweb.Wallet and sweb.Reserve web-based products provide for this smooth paperless process. With the E-Ticket delivery service the fully customizable tickets for events or parking can simply be sent to your customer’s phone. It sounds like science fiction, but it is a reality. The sweb.Wallet service is compatible with major wallet apps and devices including Apple iOS, Android devices, and Microsoft Wallet. The built in authentication mechanism ensures that tickets can only be downloaded by the purchaser.

The ticket can be tracked and edited even after it is distributed allowing for updates to be made as well as unlimited opportunities for advertising and marketing directly on the ticket. Once on site at a parking lot the entry column reads your ticket directly from your phone’s screen. If you’ve reserved parking or paid in advance it recognizes this and immediately makes the connection between your phone and that reservation or purchase. After establishing the connection with your customer you are then enabled to better communicate with them and have the opportunities to send VIP blasts or information on special events.

As part of the celebration of SKIDATA’s 40th year in business, they created this new vision statement: “We relentlessly revolutionize the industry with innovation, inspiration and simplicity to thrill our

customers worldwide with perfectly fitting solutions, valuable data and outstanding service.”

SKIDATA is demonstrating their continued commitment to playing a part in the perpetual search for and implementation of the next big thing. Today they are leveraging the ubiquitous nature of the smart phone – giving the customers what they demand and providing solutions for the industry. While there may be no way of being sure what tomorrow will bring, one thing is certain - the science fiction writers of the past would be very excited to see where technology has landed.