From Payphones to “Smart Parking”

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From Payphones to “Smart Parking”

The world is connected like never before, the result of a technological revolution that has had implications on every aspect of our lives. Technology has transformed the way we conduct business, interact and socialize.
The parking industry also has benefitted from innovative technologies. Today, real-time occupancy data from in-ground vehicle detection sensors can be communicated wirelessly from smart-parking meters to mobile phone apps to help motorists find available parking.
Mobile phones can be used to pay for and extend paid time, eliminating the need to be physically present at the meter. And state-of-the-art analytical tools allow customers to forecast trends and implement data-driven policies, which optimize revenue and improve operational efficiency.
IPS Group (IPS) is a leader in the technology behind such innovative “smart-parking” solutions. Today, the company is a leading provider of single-space parking meters, multi-space paystations, vehicle detection sensors and data analytical tools. However, its history of innovation can be traced back to the payphone business.
Dave King, a former executive with Telkor Ltd., founded IPS in South Africa in 1994. The company’s first multi-space paystation featured technology derived from his experience in the payphone industry.
At that time, the major players in the parking industry came from the same background – Schlumberger, Siemens and Telkor. As a result, the first paystations were essentially large payphones without the handset, incorporating the same coin validation and power management technologies as their payphone predecessors.
However, the IPS paystation utilized an ultra-low-power management system designed specifically for the paystation and incorporated a unique coin validation technology into its product line. (Many of its competitors at the time had to outsource the coin validation to a third party.)
The company secured the South African market, and then expanded to Australia, New Zealand and the UK. In 2001, IPS was recognized as the “Fastest Growing Technology Company” by Deloitte and Touche, and its status as a technological leader remains engrained in the corporate culture today. As such, the company invests heavily in research and development (R&D), which is conducted in-house at its San Diego corporate headquarters.

‘Stagnant’ Industry Presents New Opportunities
King was drawn to the parking industry, where he saw significant opportunities: “It was the only industry in the world that hadn’t changed in over 75 years. The opportunities were enormous.”
 At the same time that IPS was expanding to the US, the cellular industry was witnessing significant growth. Sizable investments in R&D were rapidly advancing the industry and drawing the cost-curve down.
King forecast that cellular technology would be best suited to provide the wireless network needed for the parking meters. As such, he designed his product line to communicate via the GSM and CDMA networks.
In 2000, IPS Group Inc. was incorporated in the US and established its headquarters in San Diego, which was at the heart of the cellular boom, next to notable neighbors such as Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Arrow Electronics. The proximity to such big names enabled King to form key partnerships and gain access to the latest in chip and microprocessor technology.
Despite the company’s multi-space roots, King identified an opportunity in the single-space market. Parking rates in the U.S. were substantially lower than in any other part of the world. To implement higher rate structures, parking meters would have to offer enhanced payment options such as credit and debit cards.
In 2007, IPS introduced the first solar-powered, credit card-enabled, single-space parking meter to the market. Today, the company is the worldwide leader in wirelessly connected, credit card-enabled, single-space meters. They are networked to a powerful data management system (DMS), one of the hallmarks of the IPS system.

Parking Meter as Enabler
IPS has introduced a portfolio of complementary smart-parking technologies centered on the meter.
King sees it as the enabler, communicating via cellular technology to the DMS, and seamlessly connected to vehicle detection sensors, smart-cash collection systems, or in a mixed carpark, retrofitted and new multi-space paystations featuring the latest such as IntelliTouch technology.
“Our talented team possesses unique skillsets that are not taught in university,” King said. “At IPS, young engineers work side-by-side with seasoned engineers, thinking outside the box and pushing the envelope each day. Collaboration occurs at every level of the company. We take calculated risks,” he said, “and that has paid off tremendously.”
King added that, as an innovator in the parking industry, IPS will continue to deliver cutting-edge technologies such as enhanced data reporting, analytical tools, and a technology platform built with the future in mind.
“Innovation is an art, not a science,” King said. “We will continue to invest heavily in R&D in order to remain a technology trendsetter for the industry, bringing customers the latest in smart-parking technologies.”

Contact Nicole Ybarra, Communications Manager for IPS Group, at Nicole.ybarra@ipsgroupinc.com.

Article contributed by:
Nicole Ybarra
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