Kilobytes to Terabytes: Where do we go Next?
For those of you who may not know me, my name is Eric Risch, and I have been in the parking industry for roughly 25 years. I recently had the opportunity to join the Veterans in Parking (ViP) group as one of its founding members. I offer a heartfelt thank you to Parking Today and its staff for dedicating this issue to ViP and allowing a few of us to pen articles for the November issue.
By the time I graduated my senior year, I had decided I needed to learn more and see some of the world, so I joined the military.
For those of you not familiar with the organization ViP, our goal is to assist veterans returning to the civilian workforce and to find jobs in the parking industry. It is a great cause, and I am honored to be a part of assisting my veteran brothers and sisters who have served our country.
I never really loved writing papers in school, so I tip my hat to those that have the skillset and gift of creating a story that not only holds our attention, but also can teach us something meaningful. Therefore, I opted to take a swat at the technology area - so, let’s see if I can capture your attention for a few minutes.
As a child of the 70s I have seen technology unfold and come to play a dramatic role in our daily lives. I recall friends in school having calculator watches, which we thought were incredible at the time. I even was fortunate enough to have a Commodore 64 computer.
This little marvel hit the market back in the early 80s. It had an 8-bit processor with 64k of memory (yes, that is kilobyte, not megabyte, gigabyte or even terabyte). Televisions, for the most part, were black and white models that got three or four channels, assuming the weather was good and the rabbit ears were tuned right. We had a solitary TV in our living room and you had to get up and walk over to it to change the channel.
I was always taking things apart, trying to fix them and reassemble them, so that curiosity kicked in pretty early for me. High school offered an electronics program, which I thoroughly enjoyed, building circuit boards and little processors to do basic functions. By the time I graduated my senior year, I had decided I needed to learn more and see some of the world, so I joined the military.
It was a bit of a deep dive going from a rural town in Wisconsin to the United States Navy, but I was ripe for an adventure and jumped in with both feet. I spent eighteen months in school learning electricity and electronics and found myself stationed in Southern California.
As an electronics technician I was deployed to the Gulf during the first Iraq War where my job was to copy and mimic aircraft carrier radar and communication signals. I was assigned to Fleet Deception Group in Coronado where my job was playing real war games for our military. It was a great experience, gave me an opportunity to see some of the world and built my knowledge of technology and how vitally it impacts our lives.
After leaving the military, I spent a handful of years figuring out where my skillset would settle into the civilian world. I tried my hat as stock broker for a window of time, and also worked in high-end residential access control until I eventually discovered the parking industry in Chicago.
It is a unique industry and has an almost magical mixture of people, need and technology that all meld into this market segment. Strangely, after a few years of settling into this industry, I found it difficult to leave. That says something about this arena where I and others like me work.
I have had the privilege of founding a PARCS integrator company, Automated Parking Technologies, 18 years ago. This adventure has given me the opportunity to meet thousands of fantastic people and to install hundreds of unique solutions, but one of the greatest things about this business is that once we build a relationship, we tend to keep it for decades.
My role has given me the chance to work with a vast array of commercial products that serve my customers and theirs - whether pulling a ticket to enter a garage, paying for parking at a meter, or hitting an intercom button to connect a patron with assistance from a call center. Making a reservation online and then reading your license plate and having the gate open automatically are just some of the ways parking technology continues to create convenience. We have come to take these advances for granted, as if it has always worked like that.
Where do I see our industry going with regard to technology in the next 25 years? Perhaps, cars driving themselves into garages and even coming to pick us up like a personal valet…in fact, we are seeing that being tested now. Don’t forget, it was only 12 years ago that the first iPhone hit the market. Maybe soon we will see flying cars like in “Back to the Future” or even teleporting ourselves where we want to go… anyone remember “The Fly”? Well, let’s hope they get the bugs worked out by then.
In the meantime, I look forward to bringing the latest parking technology to all of you on behalf of our industry, as a proud veteran, for many years to come.
Eric Risch is founder and President of Automated Parking Technologies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Eric served in the U.S. Navy from 1989 thru 1993 as an Electronics Technician for Fleet Deception Group in Coronado, CA. He was in the first Iraq War and spent 6 months deployed in the Gulf with the Independence Battle Group. He was an E-5 when I returned to civilian life on the West coast.