The Barnacle: One Year Later
“The Barnacle” parking enforcement system first appeared on the scene at the Parking Industry Exhibition in February 2016. When the company showed up, they had little more than a 3D-printed model of their product – a new enforcement tool that would affix to a windshield with a pair of commercial-grade suction cups. It was just a big piece of plastic with some locks and suction cups, no bells, no whistles.
Last year, I wrote an article about the Barnacle’s debut, and because hardware innovations seem to be rare in our industry, I touched base with the company this month to see how far they’ve come in the past year.
When The Barnacle hit the scene, it was offered as an alternative to the traditional parking “boot,” boasting convenience, efficiency and enforcement agent safety.
After the overwhelmingly positive reaction they received at PIE 2016 in Las Vegas, they funneled all the feedback to make enhancements to the design and finalize the implementation and development plans for Barnacle.
The PIE conference led to the first Barnacle pilot program with Allentown, PA. This quickly led to the next pilot installation with Fort Lauderdale, and then, it happened – The Barnacle went viral.
I saw the Barnacle on the “Today Show.” I received article web links from friends who know I work in parking, and asking if I had seen this device. And then I started seeing the videos on Facebook. It was crazy: Since when did a parking enforcement device become a headline story?
But then came the tweet heard around the world.
As I did a year ago, I spoke this time about the experience with Kevin Dougherty, President of Barnacle Parking Enforcement (formerly known as Ideas That Stick), the company behind The Barnacle. He told me that, initially, they didn’t want too much exposure around their pilot programs. That way, they could focus on the pilot installations and improving the product design, and develop client testimonials based on experience.
But then came the tweet heard around the world, so to speak.
This past September, someone in a pilot city who had a Barnacle placed on their car took a picture and tweeted it. That was the beginning of a viral phenomenon that would have the system talked about on “The Today Show,” in the Daily Mail, in the LA Times and on the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer, among many other placements, over the next few months.
The response was so intense that they had to quickly hire a PR agency to stay on top of all the media inquiries and to streamline the messaging so that they could meanwhile handle the volume of calls from cities around the world asking how to buy the Barnacle, Dougherty said.
Since the tweet, there have been more than 50 articles about the Barnacle, reaching an estimated 300 million people. It has been a busy and exciting time for the company and the parking industry.
And the most exciting piece is yet to come: The hit show “Modern Family” has written the Barnacle into its script, Dougherty said. Filmed in LA on Jan. 26, the episode was set to air in March, which will certainly amplify the buzz to a whole new level. People are talking about their parking experiences.
The Barnacle continues to evolve as a company by providing a product designed to make parking enforcement safer, greener, more efficient and more convenient for everyone involved.
Besides continuing to spread the word about The Barnacle, Dougherty hopes to change the perception of parking enforcement with
“We are working to change this narrative and to educate the public about why parking enforcement matters. After all, better parking enforcement leads to fewer drivers cruising for parking [studies suggest that up to 30% of downtown drivers may be just
looking for a place to park their cars].
“That means less driver frustration, less congestion and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It also means quicker turnover of parking spots outside businesses that want foot traffic and increased sales tax revenue for cities. For these reasons, parking enforcement officers who are making this all possible should be seen as city ambassadors, not villains.”
Let’s also recognize the importance of industry trade shows and peer feedback. This last year for the Barnacle is a direct result of its debut at PIE 2016, followed by participation in the IPI “Park Tank” competition.
The team quickly learned some important lessons about the industry, about driver behavior and about parking enforcement agents. We will continue to monitor their progress, and I am excited to see how the Barnacle unfolds.
Julie Dixon is Founder, President and Principal Consultant of Dixon Resources Unlimited. Contact her at