Mobile Software: The Future of Parking Technology?
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are more than 105 million commercial parking spaces in this country. Plainly put, this industry requires the efficient management of all public entities related to parking, including lots, spots and parking meters. It’s a multibillion-dollar industry inherently linked to these hard goods.
It is important to understand that profitability and return-on-investment stem from the way these assets are managed, modernized, optimized and commercialized. Equally important is the realization that innovation is the key to the future.
Given the technology available today, it is time to take a deeper look at the dynamic world of software for innovation, rather than the heavy, costly world of hardware.
Working at a faster pace to bring innovation to the forefront of the parking industry can make a valuable difference to consumers as they face parking frustrations.
The answer to this is in the dynamic world of mobile software technology, not buried in the RFPs and heavy financing that have shackled the parking industry’s ability to innovate.
‘CAPEX’ Heavy Industry
The parking industry has invested so heavily in real estate, and continues to invest heavily in hardware solutions by buying new goods and adding them to heaps of existing hardware. These include adding new cameras, installing bumpers and planning new lighting paths.
In the past, these hard goods were a necessity, and were relied on to commercialize parking spaces; however, times have changed. These capital-expenditure-intensive “innovations” are barely evolving our industry, and certainly not keeping up with the pace of innovation elsewhere.
The average driver is unaware of the parking technologies available today. Despite all the heavy hardware investments that have been made, the end-user experience hasn’t dramatically improved. From a consumer’s view, the parking experience hasn’t evolved in several decades.
A reallocation of funds is needed in order to make the switch from hard goods to modernization.
An Industry Ripe for ‘Disruption’
Consumers are software-savvy, and demand efficiency, transparency, and simplicity, yet the transition to technology hasn’t been a priority. Parking facility owners and authorities in the industry have yet to put enough focus on other options, including the software and technology available today.
Consumers are looking for alternatives in an effort for simplicity and saving money. It is time to give the situation the attention
Many parallels to this problem have fostered mobile software revolutions:
Taxi market: With apps such as Uber and GetTaxi, the passenger transportation industry has changed. The importance of taxi licensing and dispatch fees has fallen rather quickly. While players would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on taxi licenses, software has empowered others to circumvent that barrier. While cabbies would pay hundreds of dollars monthly for dispatchers, mobile software has “disintermediated” demand.
Personal navigation devices: As smartphones come with preinstalled mapping and navigation services, mapping services have had to find new ways to add value. Smartphone manufacturers have added software to their devices; they have brought an unparalleled convenience to drivers, practically ridding them of the need for a second screen. PND and mapping providers have shifted to be mapping suppliers or scrambled for ancillary premium services to maintain revenue streams.
In these cases, outside software companies have been able to tap into consumer frustration and use software to unlock the value trapped in hardware-heavy industries. They are able to remove the information opacity and cost inefficiencies and to deliver more consumer-friendly services.
Enter Mobile Software Parking Pioneers
Mobile software investments are beginning to change the parking industry. Navigant Research forecasts that the installed base of on-street smart-parking spaces will surpass 950,000 worldwide by 2020.
A few worth noting include:
Mobile parking payment apps are an example where consumer-driven software applications have (1) simplified the user experience, (2) added new revenue streams, and (3) reduced operating expenses. Parkers can use mobile-friendly applications to save themselves the hassle of fumbling for coins or waiting in front of payment machines. Parking operators can now offer additional parking options ranging from parking reminders to advertising to new prospects. Additionally, operators have saved themselves much of the operating expenses associated with (noncore) billing challenges such as paper ticketing, customer service support for malfunctioning machines, and the endless service contracts associated with those CAPEX investments.
Parking lot aggregators such as Parkopedia or BestParking are breaking down the information divide by offering comprehensive, yet mostly static, parking lot availability. By providing information in a format that is clear and easily accessible to users via a mobile application, these solutions and their peers have been downloaded millions of times.
Real-time parking availability/occupancy mobile software solutions like Anagog (http://anagog.com) are harnessing existing consumer hardware to change parking supply and demand. Its CrowdPark solution, for example, provides real-time information about parkers approaching or leaving parking spots. This information is made available to both drivers and parking professionals.
Help Create Parking’s Uber, Waze or Spotify…
The industry needs to embrace and seek out disruptive software technology services that can truly change the parking experience. The industry can use crowd-powered software to achieve better results, faster.
Yaron Aizenbud is Co-Founder and CEO of Anagog, a smart-parking company. He can be reached at Yaron@anagog.com