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Point of View

Technology Yea or Nay and Parking Air Force One

April, 2012

John Van Horn


I had dinner the other day with the CEO of a revenue control manufacturer, and every other word he said was “technology.” “Our technology”, “their technology,” “cloud-based technology,” “app technology.” I had no clue what he was talking about.


Technology definition: “The body of knowledge available to a society that is of use in fashioning implements, practicing manual arts and skills, and extracting or collecting materials.”


We have vast amounts of knowledge available to us to fashion implements and extract or collect materials. Super. But what exactly are we going to do with the materials we have extracted or collected? Do we have the expertise or planning to take that information and actually do something with it?


Frankly, I’m not so sure. There are tens of thousands of parking facilities in the U.S.. The vast majority of them are run by underpaid managers who are promoted usually based on their time in service or popularity with their owners. They are expected to have a working knowledge of complex computer systems.


So let’s assume they learn everything they need to know about a Federal APD, Skidata, Scheidt & Bachmann, or Amano McGann system. In less than five years, I can guarantee that one of two things is going to happen. Either they are going to be transferred to another garage that has a system in place with which they are unfamiliar, or the system in their location will be replaced with one of a different vendor. That’s how it works.


Technology is moving quickly. If you are over 16 years old, the chances are you don’t even know what an “app” is, never mind how to use it. Sure, you mutter buzz words like “android” or “Apple,” “G4” or “bandwidth,” but do you have the slightest clue what they actually mean?


The technology is there, but do we have the background to make proper use of it? That “body of knowledge” mentioned above is huge and ever-changing. Who the hell can actually make sense of it? The smartphone is quick and convenient, and enables us to put our schedules on it and take pictures. But does it make the words we use when we talk or write any better?


A fast-talking salesman goes to an owner and drops a few bits of techno-babble, and since we are all trained to believe that new is better and that techno is best, suddenly all our common sense goes out the window and we spend millions to get the latest and greatest, never considering exactly how it is going to be used in our facility.


Cities today are installing Wi-Fi networks so their citizens can be “online.” Fair enough, but have you ever seen one that actually worked?


Hell, I can hardly make Wi-Fi work in my living room, when I can see the transmitter 20 feet away. Yet we expect the technology to work in concrete and steel cities with airplanes, helicopters, buses, trains, trucks, cars and other such devices in between us and the transmitter. Have we lost our minds?


(BTW, in many cities, that same Wi-Fi network you can’t sign onto with your iPad is being asked to carry information that is going to be used to set parking rates.)


Will it work someday? Maybe? But let’s assume it works perfectly. Who is going to maintain the hardware and software to keep it working? Who is going to read and understand the data that are collected? Who is going to take that understanding and use it to make decisions that affect our business?


Do we have the techno geeks who can make the stuff work, and do we have the MBAs that are going to use the stuff to make our business better?


Can you honestly answer those questions? I know I can, and they are both in the negative.


Victor Davis Hanson wrote the following on PJMedia.com about technology: “Use it — but beware that at best the speed, ease of use, and greater awareness at our fingertips simply accelerate, emphasize, and accentuate whether we are dunces and boors or pretty informed and decent folk. And at worst, it is more likely to make us the former rather than the latter.”


Think about it.


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Our advertising director was sitting on the tarmac at LAX for an extra hour in mid-February because a certain politician decided to fly in to raise money for his re-election campaign. I hear he picked up an extra 3 mil for the 18 hours he was in town. Marcy thought it was rude. I agree.


Look, I don’t fault politicians for raising money; that’s what makes the world go round. Have at it. It’s when they seem to roll over the activities or feelings of others that ticks me off. I understand that the Prez needs security, and I’m sure there are valid reasons that air space must be cleared. Fair enough.


However, aren’t there alternatives? There’s a perfectly good airport at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, CA, about a half-hour copter ride from LAX. It’s in the country, and no one would have been inconvenienced except a few seagulls.


The President took a copter to his first event in LA. It was between LAX and Point Mugu. So, it might have added an extra 20 minutes to his flight time, but then tens of thousands of people at LAX, and at subsequent airports where their planes were going, would not have been inconvenienced.


 How many missed flights? How many ate cold dinners? How many … well, you get the idea.


I’m not blaming the President; he has a lot of important things on his mind. But are his handlers so tone-deaf? Think of the press they could have gotten if the headline had read: “President Lands at Mugu to Avert Tie-up at LAX.” It seems that these people just don’t think.


All the people on all those planes at LAX knew they were late because of the President. Many just shrugged, but I’ll bet there were a lot who grumbled.


I have no clue who pays for what — but if you are the Prez, there are certain perks. However, there should be someone who thinks about the problems caused when he moves from place to place, and fix them. If there is someone who does that, they need to be fired.


 




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