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Point of View

And So It Begins , and an Allegory on Life

August, 2016

John Van Horn

 I have been musing for some time on the topic of parking industry “outsiders” buying up parking suppliers. What is going to happen when well-known companies are purchased by the giants of the economy (Google, Microsoft, Ford, IBM, Xerox)? It looks like we are going to find out. 


BMW Group has purchased Amsterdam-based Parkmobile Group. According to the brief announcing the April purchase, the auto giant made the move “in order to offer more services to its customers and to become more than just a car manufacturer.” It also commented that the technology will be available to other car companies. Fair enough.

When I read the piece that Astrid put up on our Parknews.biz, I was surprised by how short it was. It also described the app company as supplying the user with parking availability and notification if their parking time is running out. 

Strange that the notice didn’t mention what I would consider the central aspect of Parkmobile: pay-by-cell.

This is the problem. BMW buys Parkmobile, and no one in its PR department knows what it bought. Oh, I’m sure they will catch on, but it’s unfortunate that such a dynamic company as BMW can’t get its act together.

I spoke with a BMW representative, who told me: “I am afraid that at the moment, this is not a topic we are able to discuss in any further detail. Should this change, or when we have something new to say, I will get back in touch.” Sigh!

It seems to me that the Bavarian automaker wants an app to integrate into its “connected car” program, and after an investment in Parkmobile U.S.A. in 2014, purchasing the European unit makes sense.  BMW can integrate the app into its “smart” dashboard, and you will be paying for your parking without ever touching your phone.  

I suspect that the app will grow with the power of BMW fully behind it and will begin to operate into more and more markets, alongside other pay-by-cell companies. After all, what good is it if you buy a BMW in Nashville, and Parkmobile doesn’t cover “Music City?”

As one of the Hunt brothers supposedly said, a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you have some real money. BMW has deep pockets. Putting more money in Parkmobile, now a division, is as simple as sending a memo. 

Consider what it means when major economic players begin to gobble up not just high-tech app companies, but viable PARCS companies as well. This won’t be a 3M fiasco, where it bought Federal’s unit to get one technology and was forced to take another, too. These will be strategic purchases to grow their product lines, and our marketplace.

All you suppliers out there better dust off your PR and be ready when someone calls from Detroit, or Redmond, or Silicon Valley. Mark my words, they will.

Parkmobile is only the beginning.

Parkmobile U.S.A. has been quick to point out that the BMW Group purchased Parkmobile Group, or PMG, which is a Dutch company and separate from Parkmobile International. Parkmobile U.S.A. notes that the purchase will have little effect on it. 

If you are a regular reader, you’ll know that my neighborhood has been going through the rebuilding of our streets. This has been going on for a year.

We were told that we had to replace our curbs before the streets could be done. That project started a year ago. We had new curbs and old streets, with driveways disrupted — the new curbs didn’t fit the old streets. Things became worse than before they started, and that was last fall and winter.

Then they began rebuilding the street.  First, trimming the first layer of asphalt off, then actually replacing it with a temporary covering (they said they wanted the streets to be nice for us over the Christmas holidays). 

It seems we also needed new water mains, so the street work stopped and the water folks started (so the new street surface would cover the cuts in the street).  They dug a ditch, installed the mains, filled the ditch and paved over it.  

They then cut the street again in front of each house and hooked up the mains to each service, replacing the old meters with “smart” meters, and paved those cuts. That took a couple of months.

Construction then began in earnest. Huge machines were brought in, and all the pavement was removed. Road-graders reshaped the ground under the streets and a first layer of asphalt was laid down — another six weeks passed.

Note that it seemed that between each part of the process, the city had to stop and take a breath. Crews disappeared. Machines left and then a week later returned.

Finally, the big day came. The base was finished. The next day, the road surface was installed. It took only one day to lay down the actual roadway – but nearly an entire year to prepare for that big event.

I guess life is a lot that way. We spend years preparing for an event (college graduation, the Olympics, the Super Bowl, that new job, marriage, having children, retirement), but the event itself is over in the blink of an eye.

The adventure isn’t the new road that we now drive on every day. It was the year of preparation, the complaints, the joys, the frustrations. It’s almost as if the actual road construction, like that pole vault at the Olympics, was over in a moment.

From my point of view, the journey through life is what is important. Like the construction of the roadway, it’s all in the preparation. That preparation is life.

We watched the crews and learned a bit about how roads are made. We marveled at the machines that took up half a block. 

We laughed at what seemed to be complete folly, as the street was scraped, paved, cut, filled and then scraped and paved again. And we cried a bit when vehicles backed into open ditches and had to be pulled out.

Today, the crews have moved on to another neighborhood to start all over again.

Today, life continues. Lunch with a friend, frustration with a broken sprinkler, a cut that takes forever to heal, damn Microsoft, Verizon FiOS becomes Frontier Communications FiOS and service sucks. 

Like my street, just more weaves in life’s rich tapestry. 


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