Technology, OMG


Technology, OMG

Being a Luddite, I find the word “technology” rather empty. We apply “technology” to solve the world’s problems. It has made us healthier, cars safer, planes fly faster, food and fuel plentiful and cheaper, communications easier and inexpensive. But has technology solved any real problems?
Is our government more responsive? In fact, is the street in front of my house repaved? Are the lines at airports shorter? Is your waistline smaller? Does the information you receive fast and cheap make you a better person? Or are you suddenly inundated with stories about people and countries a world away that you cannot possibly affect but that fill you with concern, worry, ennui?
Has technology done a thing to tame Mother Nature and prevent forest fires, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes? Has technology made it easier for you to fix your car? (Look under the hood some day and see if you could “drop the tranny,” change the oil, or even find the air filter.)
Have tablets and smartphones helped our interpersonal relationships? How many hour-long discussions have you had with your kids, or for that matter, your spouse?
In fact, if you are over age 50, do you even know how to use all the technology that confronts you daily? How about, for example, all those features of your email that can sort incoming messages into folders? Do you even look at all those little buttons across the top of the Word program as you write your column?
By the way, did you know that the list on the top is called a “ribbon?” And even if you have sort of figured it out, “tiles” are coming to replace them.
I guess Facebook is OK, but I wonder why it’s so important to tell everyone on the planet what you did 10 minutes ago.
I was surprised when I walked into the office this morning, and someone told me how good I looked at an event I had attended two days before. Seems a guest snapped my picture and “put it up” before the concert was over.
And I thought that living in a small town growing up meant no privacy at all. I went to a concert with 20,000 other people and, shazam, I’m immortalized on the Internet.
When I think about “Twitter,” I shake my head. How is it possible to be cogent, to truly express yourself, in less than 140 characters or about 25 words? (That’s about as long as the beginning of this paragraph up to “140”).
What I see in most “tweets” is certainly a lack of subtlety, a lack of manners, and mostly kneejerk reactions to things. Is this a good thing?
Technology has brought us visuals, sound bites, the 24-hour news cycle, with no editing, no thought, no filters. Back in the day (say, 40 years ago), when there was a story, an editor sent out a reporter, and if it was really urgent, the story was called in to a rewrite man. Then the editor read the story, made changes, asked questions, and sometimes even killed it because of lack of facts or too much supposition.
Today, with smartphone cameras rolling, so-called reporters describe a scene as it unfolds. The words you hear are often in opposition to what your eyes see behind the “reporter.” Articles are filtered through the reporter’s prejudices, life experiences and agenda. There is no thought, no consideration. Technology has allowed instant access, and we get it.
There is no back story. There is no context. There is no understanding. It’s simply … there.
What has all this to do with Parking Technology Today?
“Technology” is consuming the parking industry. “Apps” are appearing everywhere to help us find parking, pay for parking, even to fight parking tickets. We can pay for our parking with credit cards, with our cellphone, even pay online and in advance.
“Technology” is doing away with the need for parking tickets that you take at the entry to a garage. It’s allowing us to park on-street without an interface with a machine of any kind.
A few weeks ago, I had dinner with a friend. I met her at the restaurant, and after dinner, she offered to take me to my hotel. On the way to her car, she stopped at a machine, put in her ticket and her credit card. We then got in her car and she simply drove out. At the exit, the gate opened, and we were off.
I asked to see her ticket, and her car’s license number was printed on it. When she entered the garage, it had been “read,” and when we left, the system knew it was paid and simply opened the gate.
Technology is making parking easier for the driver, and easier for the garage operator. But do we know how to use it?
Sure, the front-end is being made easier and easier. That is the goal: Make parking a good, fast experience. But what about on the back-end? Do garage managers have the technology chops to actually run these complex systems? Can we actually use all the features that are found in technology-based equipment?
In this premier issue of Parking Technology Today, we attempt to give some context and background to the technology that is appearing daily in our industry. We also are putting some human faces in front of you, faces of some of those responsible for the technology you address daily.
Dave King brought communications technology he developed in South Africa to the U.S. and revolutionized the on-street single-space meter business. Blake Laufer began playing with gadgets when he was a kid in Canada, and is now Chief Technology Officer of one of our major high-tech parking companies. Mayra Harley, a “computer geek” since age 13, runs a software company that helps companies with parking availability and reservations. Mike Bigbee has been marketing technology for three decades, and now heads one of the newer tech-based parking companies in the U.S..
Add another 10 articles on everything from making parking meters popular to providing parking services as a utility, and you have what we hope is a magazine that will intrigue, challenge and entertain.
Technology is real. It’s here. We must run it, not let it run us.
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