An IP Champion Striving to Make Parking More User Friendly
Gorm Tuxen has been a parking industry fixture and champion of using software to improve the parking experience since the early 90s. A native of Denmark, Tuxen joined Duncan Management Solutions in 1991 and eventually made his way to Branson, Missouri where he founded Tuxen & Associates, and later, IPsens. Nearly 30 years since joining the parking industry, Tuxen is a leader of the Open IP movement, which aims to make parking software more useful and powerful by letting owners and operators customize their technology.
Parking Today recently had a chance to sit down with him to talk about his career, his passion for Open IP, and how he sees the future of parking.
PT: Branson, Missouri is a long way from Denmark. How did you make your way to the heart of the Ozark Mountains?
GT: In the early ‘90s I was in Nashville, TN consulting to a Taiwanese technology company. I was ready for a change and saw a news story about in-vehicle parking meters. That seemed like a good idea to me since it rains all the time in Denmark! I looked into the meters, which led me to Duncan Industries in Arkansas. That led to a job with Duncan as a new products research & development consultant, promoting their new products throughout Europe. I was part of the team that developed the first model for an integrated on-street parking management solution. We take integration for granted now, but at the time it was an entirely new concept.
A couple of years later (in 1994), I helped create Duncan Management Solutions, which was a joint venture software development company. We developed the world’s first on-street integrated parking management and revenue control system, and that company is now part of IPsens.
Open IP is a communications protocol that allows for the open sharing of data between software from different developers or manufacturers.
Moving to Branson brought me closer to Duncan’s Arkansas headquarters. And today, it’s still a great location because it’s pretty much in the middle of the United States.
PT: So, your interest in improving the parking experience through technology began with your time at Duncan?
GT: That’s right. I was brought in to do RFID research, but RFID was essentially an off-street technology and Duncan was mostly on-street at the time. At the time, PARCS was starting to integrate and my job was to figure out how to make enforcement, collections, auditing, and other management systems talk to each other. I led Duncan’s push to develop software and hardware that was completely integrated—to develop a common standard.
It was exciting to help pioneer the change in emphasis from parking products to integrated solutions. We changed the focus of the company and how it was seen by the industry. Of course, today if you don’t have an integrated solution you shouldn’t even show up.
We led the way and the industry followed.
PT: Where did your experience at Duncan lead you?
GT: I left Duncan on September 10, 2001 and the events of 9/11 convinced me to move my focus to the security side of the technology, and I partnered with Nedap a few months later. Of course, they are one of Europe’s leading providers of long-range RFID readers and tags and in-ground parking guidance sensors, so that partnership kept me firmly rooted in the parking industry, as well as security. As Nedap’s American representative, Tuxen & Associates was working with RFID tags for garages and toll roads, security access, and LPR.
But I was still interested in exploring how software could improve the parking experience, so in 2011, I founded IPsens with a former colleague from Duncan. Initially, we worked with cities like New York and San Francisco to implement parking management solutions. At the same time, we were refining our software to make it more generally useful to parking owners and operators. That’s what led us to develop maintenance monitoring software.
PT: Where does maintenance monitoring software fit in?
GT: Maintenance monitoring is all about collecting and utilizing data that tells you how your technology is working—if it’s working accurately and all the time.
Having the ability to proactively keep systems working reliably all the time is essential. It also tells you how accurate the data you are collecting is. If you are getting third-party data from big data providers, how does that apply to your operations? If you are collecting data from a variety of different platforms, and you don’t know where it comes from, how does it pass the common sense test? What good is data if it isn’t accurate? How do you make decisions if you don’t know where it came from? These are all issues that are addressed through maintenance monitoring.
When you have your integrated systems providing real-time data about your operations, you can make better decisions. There are a lot of technologies that can tell owners and operators who is parking and when? But that’s not enough. What about your operations? Are your lights fully operational? Are your elevators working well?
And when you measure all of these things you aren’t just managing your operations; you are making parking work better for the customer. We are focused on architecture that makes parking friendlier.
PT: You talk a lot about making parking friendlier…as you’ve said, making it “suck less.”
GT: Ultimately, that’s the only reason we exist—the only reason the parking industry exists. To make it easier, more convenient and pleasant, and safer to park your vehicle.
The conversation is changing now. Who is the customer? In the old days, the industry was primarily focused on the organizations who were buying the equipment—the parking provider. In today’s world, it’s increasingly important for operators to look at the end user as the customer. We’ve solved the issues that revolve around operations. Sure, there are incremental gains still, but the biggest gains we are seeing today benefit the user.
Look at the most important recent technology breakthroughs. Parking guidance, directional guidance, traffic guidance, mobile pay—these are all designed to improve the parking experience.
Of course, focusing on the parker benefits owners and operators, too. For instance, how do you measure ROI? Is it getting $35 for an hour of parking? Or by winning a regular customer at $15 an hour? Parking owners and operators need to recognize that ROI can and should revolve around keeping the customer happy and coming back to park with you again and again.
In the 90s, that meant integration. The best thing we ever did to improve the parker experience was integrating technologies so they worked together for the parker. We won that battle.
Today, the key focus is on Open IP. Over the next few years, that’s how we are going to change parking.
PT: So, tell me more about Open IP.
GT: Full integration requires an open platform. Open IP is a communications protocol that allows for the open sharing of data between software from different developers or manufacturers. The data sharing is enabled through the use of a secure API which allows the different software packages to share data from their databases through the internet. The software systems don’t impact the operating software of the other connected systems; they just communicate with each other.
The beauty of the open IP approach is that it encourages sharing among parking organizations and their technology gurus so they can explore, experiment, and create innovative new ways to utilize different types of equipment. In essence, they can customize their equipment to meet the unique needs of their customers.
So far, most technology has historically been very siloed by manufacturer/developer. Companies are holding tight control over how the data produced by their equipment is used. But that’s obsolete and self-defeating thinking. Providers need to let go; let the operational needs control how and what type of equipment is being used.
We are making progress, though. Some technology providers are already open, particularly those that compile data to provide demographic and utilization data. That’s a good start, but it’s just a start. What we should aim for is operational data across platforms—data about what technology is being applied, how it operates, and how well it operates.
Ultimately, opening up technology will benefit equipment providers, too. When customers discover how much more useful the equipment is when it’s open, they’ll want more of that equipment.
I think the Open IP movement is every bit as important as the integration movement of the 90s. It’s going to transform parking by allowing owners and operators to make their facilities much, much more customer-friendly.
PT: Even though you’ve established your roots in Missouri, you still frequently travel across the globe. How do your globe-trotting ways have an impact on your work in the parking industry?
GT: My travels shape my views of the ways parking impacts people’s lives and how we can improve parking. When I travel, I look at things through a transportation infrastructure lens, and I always see new products and new approaches.
I also learn a lot about people’s attitudes about parking and transportation. For instance, I recently drove from Milan to Pisa, and I noticed that all the autobahns are toll roads. I paid 36 Euros in tolls, which is a significant amount of money, but the roads were in terrific shape and easy to use. But when you get off the highway, the roads are often in terrible shape.
In Denmark, I paid just about as much in bridge toll on the world’s second longest bridge. These people are paying a premium for their roads and they are highly taxed already in other parts of their lives. They are willing to pay a premium for roads and bridges that are spectacular.
The dynamic looks a lot like parking. If you provide a pleasant and easy-to-use parking experience, parkers will come to you. Ultimately, that’s why we are here.