A Global Perspective on Digital Parking – the Trends and Technologies to Watch
Innovation in digital parking is primarily driven by collaboration between solution providers, operators, and consumers. For many years, this has been happening on a local scale - block by block, city by city. In recent years, however, the popularity and sophistication of smart mobility solutions like parking apps have dramatically increased worldwide. Now, there are new and exciting opportunities for leading innovators around the globe to collaborate like never before.
In 2021, ParkMobile merged with EasyPark, giving both companies a unique opportunity to reexamine and improve our service models, offerings, and systems. Examining the most successful trends and technologies across the globe also allows us to share valuable insights into what’s coming next for the parking and mobility industry.
Common Challenges of a Maturing Industry
Unsurprisingly, cities and parking operators worldwide are faced with similar challenges. Digital transformation combined with the emergence of more qualified smart mobility vendors is having a profound effect on the industry as a whole. Both in North America and Europe, smart mobility solutions, their users, and the cities operating them have all matured considerably. Accelerated in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, people are expressing much stronger preferences for contactless digital payments and experiences. This attitude shift is prompting many cities around the world to focus less on adoption and more on improving the overall parking experience. In short, features and services, not price, are becoming the leading adoption drivers.
As our industry matures and a wider variety of qualified paid parking solutions emerge, it’s not enough to simply have a functional digital parking option. Like in many other digital industries, people today are more partial to specific apps and features than ever before. Ultimately, finding ways to provide customers with more flexibility and choice is proving critical to creating a superior parking experience.
Driving Customer Choice with New Business Models
Often, many North American cities have the perception that added flexibility also comes with added risk or complexity. Restrictive vendor procurement contracts also have the potential to dictate what features and services are available, further limiting a city’s ability to innovate and improve the customer experience. So, this all raises an important question: as the industry gets more complex, how do we improve customer experience and choice without putting an undue burden on cities?
A growing number of European cities are embracing a multivendor or “open market” approach. Despite the term’s potential connotations, “open market” does not translate to a chaotic free-for-all. Instead, the rising number of reliable digital parking providers allows cities to utilize a flexible authorization system rather than traditional procurement contracts.
To ensure quality, all vendors must meet specific standards and requirements that are set by the city in order to participate. This new model has some distinct and surprising advantages for cities, vendors, and users. Cities have benefited from decreased operating costs and better data collection, which in turn is helping with strategic initiatives. Simultaneously, vendors are competing directly for customers, not contracts, leading to renewed investment and focus on developing user-centric innovation and features. In this environment, the best apps that provide the most added value and benefit to the end user will eventually rise to the top.
It’s worth noting that like any new system, the specifics of the open market approach vary by location. There is no magic one-size-fits-all implementation. But ultimately, the success of these trends indicates that new business models may have a bigger role to play in providing more customer choice in the future.
Leveraging Parking Data for More Livable Cities
An explosion of data-driven insights is powering advances in almost every industry, and parking is certainly no exception. The widespread use of digital parking solutions is generating a treasure trove of valuable data that cities and other parking operators are just starting to tap into. However, you may be surprised to know that data-driven parking policy and curbside management are closer than you think.
Internationally, there are already 60 cities leveraging real-time data to better optimize their parking ecosystem. The successful implementation of Parking Data as a Service (PDaaS) abroad gives us a fascinating look at how data can transform parking operations. PDaaS is helping cities gain a deeper understanding of their parking inventory and parking occupancy. Utilizing operational parking data is also allowing them to maximize the use of their public spaces. Additionally, access to real-time data is leading to smarter policy and enforcement decisions, like pricing and hourly limits. In the near future, these services could also pave the way for more parking automation and convenient customer experiences.
Given that there is already a solid framework in place, we expect it won’t be long before we see PDaaS and similar data-centric offerings utilized in North America.
Preparing for More Electric Vehicles
In the coming years, the number of electric vehicles will undoubtedly increase. Looking at Europe, where there are more electric vehicles in use, provides us hints at the role paid parking plays in charging infrastructure. One notable observation is that people are not using charging spaces just to charge their vehicles. Instead, EV charging is generally used more spontaneously as an added piece of the overall parking experience. On a practical level, this highlights the need to consider parking and charging as interconnected systems to utilize them most effectively.
Monitoring trends internationally also shows us how parking data can inform choices related to infrastructure. Cities leveraging parking data are using it to understand what areas to invest in charging equipment. Moving forward, we anticipate digital parking providers will play a more active role in helping cities prepare for the future.
Capitalizing on Emerging Business Trends
More business-related vehicle usage along with the rapid rise of various digital business models is having dramatic effects on curbside usage around the world. Cities are increasingly looking for ways to manage and capitalize on commercial needs while maintaining equitable curbside access for the general population. Both in North America and abroad, this has led to more focus on integrating corporate or fleet features into the digital parking ecosystem.
We’ve seen that augmenting the in-app experience with features specifically designed for corporate vehicles is bringing added value for both cities and businesses. Corporate accounts allow drivers to consolidate work-related parking payments for easier expense reporting, along with giving companies useful data about where employees are going most. In turn, cities can use the same data to intelligently create policies catered to businesses. Many of these capabilities are rolling out in Europe, giving us helpful insights into best practices moving forward. While digital experiences are constantly evolving, a solid offering for corporate vehicles is helping cities future-proof their operations.
Global Cooperation is Driving Innovation
Until recently, there weren’t many chances for parking industry leaders to share insights on a global scale. But as the parking industry evolves, innovation will be increasingly driven by emerging strategies and consumer behaviors across the globe.
Of course, effective paid parking strategies will always be rooted in working closely with partners to meet their specific needs. But our ability to collaborate internationally will continue to offer exciting new insights that will redefine the industry moving forward.
David Hoyt is CRO at ParkMobile. Email him at David.Hoyt@parkmobile.io. Martin Sandström is Head of Business Development Distribution at EasyPark. Email him at email@example.com