Schoolyard Fight: Hardware vs. Software
By Kelsey Owens
We use some form of technology in every aspect of our lives – from work to play, technology is all around. With more than six billion cellphone plans worldwide and more than one billion Internet users, it’s safe to say we live in a connected world. Our social interactions, the way we work, and even the way we park have forever been changed by mobile technology.
Mobile technology has made us safer by lowering crime rates, smarter by improving access to education, and healthier by making our medical data easily accessible to caregivers. But how is this all possible? These transformative technologies are enabled by everyone’s favorite buzzword – “the cloud.”
So, what is the cloud? It is software that, for example, makes your music and emails available through your Internet connection, even though your data are stored on servers hundreds of miles away. Cities and universities have begun to adopt “cloud-based” technology to improve lives of citizens and students, and as a result, important partnerships are forming.
The benefits of the cloud highlight the difficulties inherent in purchasing and maintaining hardware. Hardware is a stagnant piece of equipment, which is difficult to adjust, while cloud-based software (operating systems, apps, etc.) provides greater flexibility.
Cities and universities have discovered that software can reduce the need for expensive hardware updates. The tension between traditional hardware-intensive infrastructure and emergent software-based infrastructure has sparked an old schoolyard fight: Hardware or software?
But the debate isn’t necessary. Hardware and software can play nicely together in the sandbox. Through partnerships, municipalities and universities no longer need to pick a side. As technology advances, it creates shared opportunities for hardware and software, and the parking industry should embrace this ideology.
What does this mean for the public sector? As cities and universities continue to adopt cloud-based technology, it is important to take a look at all the ways to take advantage of these new tools.
Gone are the days when you were forced to choose one solution (e.g., gates or software) for your parking environment. Hardware has made major improvements over the past few years, and has eliminated many of the “pain points” during the parking experience.
The technology trend is to focus more on mobility, and this has created a shared hardware opportunity for parking and transit operators through payment validators and mobile phones. Both parking (meters) and transit (fare boxes) have payment validators that they must use to accept cash, but we can take it a step further with integrated citywide mobile applications.
Improvements in technology are making our once compartmentalized lives merge at a rapid pace. One’s personal life and work life are becoming more intermingled through technology, making it easier to do my job at home or on the go. Transit and parking operators should take advantage of this convenience created by technology. Consumers want a way to eliminate the hassle associated with paying for a parking session or a bus ride.
If you bring all of your parking and transportation users under one application, you will see numerous benefits:
1- Data gold mine: The data that an operation owns are becoming as valuable as the cash flow itself. If a company can collect data, analyze it, and discover revenue-driving information, they can transform their organization. Imagine if you had data that showed where commuters parked and tracked the stops where they boarded the bus. You could adjust your parking meters for peak hours and adjust the number of buses running on your transit system to meet demand. You could develop a clearer picture of what your customers are doing throughout the day.
2- Two-way communication: With a unified platform, you can effectively communicate with your customers, and more important, they can communicate back to you, opening the door for two-way communication. A unified city platform allows users to report directly to you what parking meters are down, if a handicap spot is not clearly marked, or if a train station is messy. During an emergency situation, this could quite literally save lives.
3- Cutting costs: By combining efforts to create a “smart city,” parking and transit departments can cut costs by increasing overall operational efficiencies. Through unified applications, you could receive better snapshots of the current activity in a city and the associated needs. Using these data, you can reallocate wasted resources to improve your operation.
4- Brand, brand, brand: For companies, brand is everything. This is no different for parking programs or transit agencies. The benefit of a branded application for your entity is invaluable. If people see the app’s logo and name throughout the city, they will become familiar and comfortable with using it. If you can put the power of the city’s name behind the app, you will increase usage and drive revenue.
The days are gone when entities could overlook partnerships. Cities should focus on combining efforts to serve the full spectrum of customers’ needs. There is increasing pressure to form partnerships, which will drive revenue, increase utilization, and provide a better environment for your customers. People know this technology is out there, and they want to use it.
Parking and transit have the perfect opportunity to take advantage of flexible software and existing hardware to increase operational efficiencies. Customers are willing and able to adopt new forms of payment to take away any daily anxieties. Commuters want the ease of one app to find parking, find out the next bus arrival, and pay for it all on one device. The technology is available to transition cities into smart, efficient entities for its customers.
Contact Kelsey Owens, a Sales Analyst for Passport, at firstname.lastname@example.org.