Why Can’t All Our Parking Technology Just Get Along?
To understand the difference between an “open” and a “closed” platform, let’s begin by examining the difference between using FaceTime and Skype for a video call.
FaceTime (built by Apple) works great, but only on Apple products. If you want to have a FaceTime video call with your friend on their Android phone, you’re out of luck.
Skype, on the other hand, works on all major platforms, so you can have a video call on your iPhone with someone using an Android phone, then add a friend who is using a PC, or even invite someone who is using a Blackberry or Windows phone. With an open platform, everyone connects seamlessly, no matter which device they use.
An open platform, when used in a general technology context, refers to a system’s ability to connect devices and use data from other third-party systems seamlessly. A closed system, on the other hand, functions only with hardware or software from a single company.
In a parking context, an open platform enables all components of a parking operation (gates, meters, permits, accounting systems, etc.) to communicate with one another, even if components were created by different vendors and implemented at different times. For a customer, all that communication occurs in the background.
Let’s say that a customer uses multi-space meters from one manufacturer but wants to upgrade to a software management platform from another vendor. With many of the currently available closed systems, the customer would need to anticipate conflicts between these two systems and factor those limitations into the operational plan. An open platform’s flexibility eliminates the customer’s concern regarding which vendors provided each service or how well they communicate with one another.
Customers who choose to adopt an open platform in the parking industry will notice three unique benefits: the ability to continue to use existing hardware and software while upgrading individual components; the means to access the best-in-class of each type of hardware and software; and the capability to seamlessly aggregate, access and share all available data.
Often, customers opt to continue with the status quo, rather than adopt new technology. Fearing the substantial costs (both financial and logistical) that could result from a system-wide upgrade, they assume that continuing with a current closed platform solution would be the most practical decision. However, the benefits created by technological innovation might overrule a customer’s decision to keep the status quo.
For example, a little more than a decade ago, if you decided to upgrade your flip-phone to a newer model, you would have faced the painful process of manually transitioning all your contacts to your new phone. Advancements in technology now enable you to automatically transfer all contacts (as well as apps and data) when upgrading to a newer phone.
Similarly, when a new app is released, you can download and use that app immediately without needing to change or upgrade your phone to receive the benefits. With either a personal smartphone or a massive parking operation, an open platform provides the customer with the freedom to decide when they wish to upgrade and whether they want to adopt any major components.
With an open platform, customers have the flexibility to use the best solution for each component. For example, the best hardware option for many customers is not necessarily the most technologically advanced solution or the one offering the best price, but the option that allows them to have the highest levels of local support.
Many very old PARC systems are still in use today due to great local support. (But, really, for those of you still using your Cincinnati Time System, it might be time to upgrade. I think you got your ROI covered by now.)
Selecting a good PARCS solution and connecting it with an open parking management system allows you to have the best of both worlds.
A little more than a decade ago, if you decided to upgrade your flip-phone to a newer model, you would have faced the painful process of manually transitioning all your contacts
to your new phone.
No single company can excel at every technological aspect needed by a modern parking operation. A truly open platform will be able to accommodate a variety of vendors and will likewise be able to adapt to future incarnations of products and services. In other words, an open platform coordinates with a customer’s existing partners, but it doesn’t trap that customer into using specific solutions from only one vendor.
By integrating external information, customers can manage operations from one centralized location, while getting the benefits from the experts in the field. A successful open platform contains all the components that work together already, with the ability to integrate with ancillary products as desired. Using third-party vendors that specialize and excel in certain elements means the customer is always able to use premium providers.
To be successful, a parking operation requires versatility and adaptability. Let’s compare a parking operation with a new smartphone.
When you purchase a new phone, you can perform basic tasks. Only when you customize your phone by adding apps are you fully able to realize the potential that the phone offers. As your needs change, and as new apps are created to address those needs, you can continue customization until you create an individualized system that performs exactly to your requirements.
An open platform, either on a smartphone or in a parking operation, is already positioned to enable customers to adjust to their constantly changing needs.
Kevin Uhlenhaker is the Co-Founder and CEO of NuPark. Contact him at Kevin.Uhlenhaker@NuPark.com.
Editors Note: There are two sides to every story, and the Open/Closed architecture for software is no exception –
Next month, an article about closed architecture.