‘Cooptition,’ ‘Jumbled,’ and ‘Great Apes’
I was on the phone with a venture capital firm discussing money that has been flowing into the new startups in the parking industry. “Cooptition” came up a number of times. My contact felt that tech startups in the parking business need to be deeply involved in “cooperative competition” to enable them to thrive and grow.
Venture capitalists, it seems, are “rising tide lifts all boats” folks. As one company thrives, others in the same genre will thrive. Working together will make that happen only faster.
My contact said the parking business needs to see customers not as just cogs in a wheel, but to strive to make parking easy and, as important, pleasurable. He said we need to answer questions like:
How can I bring customers more services?
How can I partner with other companies to success?
Just what is “parking” and what could it be?
We seem to have accepted that parking is a necessary evil. Drivers hate it but must use our services. So why do we need to do anything more than provide space for a price?
Tech companies being supported by venture capitalists are providing services that will, they hope, yield answers to the above questions and make parking a pleasurable experience. If we give drivers parking choices, make their actual experience a good one, and perhaps provide other services that they may want at the same time (wash, oil change, dry cleaners, coffee bar, valet services), they may be willing to pay more for the service.
Some garages make a run at these services, but fall down when it comes to communication with parkers. Technology is on the cusp of enabling vehicles to be in contact with their destinations and enabling drivers to partake of services that will make their experience easier.
These money guys believe that the companies that connect parking locations, drivers, and services will carry the industry in the next few years. The parking ecosystem, if you will, will grow and the typical horrible parking experience will be a thing of the past, and parkers will line up to pay for the more pleasurable parking space.
Companies who “stay the course” and don’t look for a new experience in parking do so at their peril. We shall see. In the meantime, cooptition is the word.
By the way, I’m told that obviously I don’t follow NASCAR as the legendary Darrell Waltrip (aka “Jaws”) has been using the term for years. It means one racer helping another by working together to go faster until the last lap, then it’s “race on.”
My guess is that the same is true in all types of cooptition. The cooperation between companies goes out the window when the “rising tide” reaches a certain level.
When Astrid at our Parknews.biz posted an article on the website in late July about a parking app from “Cult of Mac,” a Bay Area blog that “follows everything about Apple,” I was excited. Wow, something that worked and worked well. The headline was catchy: This app will guide you to parking, and may get you a ticket, too.”
The blog entry spoke highly of the creator of the new app, and how it was going to make San Francisco a parking paradise.
It’s neat. The app works like Garmin and tells you how to get to a parking space that you select, both on- and off-street. No need to look at your phone and run into the police car in front of you.
The article infers that the infrastructure behind the app was 8,000 sensors located on-street in San Francisco. The new sensors replaced existing ones installed as part of the SFPark pilot project that were turned off in 2013.
These new puppies were merrily sending data back to the app and letting people park easily and quickly in “Baghdad by the Bay” spaces, saving – according to the app creator – 3 million driving minutes a day.
Anything smell a bit fishy? Your intrepid editor contacted the app’s creator, David LaBua at VoicePark (www.voicepark.org), and asked a few questions.
Q. Did you use the sensors provided by Streetline Inc. and StreetSmart Technology in San Francisco for your tests there?
A: Yes, but their data was not good enough for use to reliably provide information to the app users. The data was in the 70% range of accuracy, and we needed something better, at least 95%, or people won’t use the app.
Q. So you didn’t really have a viable test of the app in San Francisco?
A. If we had had good data, it would have worked perfectly.
Q. What sensor do you use, and did you deploy it in San Francisco?
A. We use a sensor from Smart Parking. It’s in use to great success in London. We have not deployed it in San Francisco, because there are some legal issues to be worked out.
Q. So where have you deployed sensors?
A. Mumble, mumble, mumble …
Q. Where are you going to deploy?
A. Next month in a small town in the “wine country” north of San Francisco. You will love to visit it.
Q. So, basically, the blog entry on Cult of Mac about deployment and success in San Francisco was bogus?
A. Well, ahem, when you discuss software, hardware deployment, apps and the like with reporters, sometimes the resulting article is jumbled. ...
This is what happens when a reporter who has no clue writes an article with information from only one source.
The cover of the August issue of PT showed a “monkey” parking a car. OK, Photoshop is wonderful. It’s our fauna-challenged art department and editorial staff that can’t tell the difference between a monkey and a chimpanzee. Apologies to Hominidae, or the “Great Apes.” By that way, that includes you.
Next month will be the premiere of our new semi-annual publication, Parking Technology Today. It replaces PT for October only. Articles are flowing in, and you can expect a dynamic magazine that brings parking technology clearly into your office.
See you next month at the 2014 NPA Convention & Exposition (“Parking Trends, Tech & Transportation”) Oct. 20-23 in Las Vegas.