The Next Generation of Parking Technology
This is an exciting time to be in parking. For decades, ours was a sleepy industry that changed little. People drove to garage and lot entrances, pulled a ticket and parked. When it was time to leave, they paid an attendant and drove off. It could take a while to find a space. And it often took even longer to exit.
But in recent years the industry has woken up. The introduction of new technologies has opened up many opportunities to improve the parking experience for drivers. Technology has also opened up an abundance of opportunities to make parking more profitable and manageable.
Parking didn’t always revolve around technology. Sure, parking meters were introduced in the 1930s and entry and exit gates have been around for years. But for the most part, parking management was done by hand. And certainly, neither of these technologies improved the parking experience for drivers.
That all change with the advent of parking’s technology age over the past 15 years. PARCS has become increasingly technologically advanced, able to accept credit card payments and providing a direct link to customer service representatives when something goes wrong with the equipment. Pre-booking and mobile payment platforms were introduced to make it easier to reserve and pay for parking. License plate recognition (LPR) and automatic vehicle identification technologies made frictionless parking possible and facilitated permit management.
And perhaps most importantly, parking guidance systems were introduced to guide parkers directly to open spaces. Suddenly, parking was dominated by technology and the parking experience became exponentially more convenient and pleasant. In garages and parking lots with these types of technologies, parking went from being a chore to being a piece of cake.
And it wasn’t just parkers who benefited from these technological breakthroughs. These same technologies that improved the parking experience also made parking easier to manage. Frictionless parking, made possible by combining varieties of these technologies, saved owners thousands in staffing costs, while reducing liability. And the various technologies provided valuable data about who uses a given facility, what times of day are busiest, and where in a garage or parking lot they prefer to park.
Parking guidance technology even made dynamic—or market-based—pricing possible by monitoring and evaluating space utilization in real-time and permitting owners to lower rates when their facilities weren’t as full and raise them when parking was at a premium. Suddenly owners and operators had an extraordinary amount of data to use in managing their facilities and making operational plans for the future.
With the introduction of these technologies, parking went from an often-inconvenient necessity to an increasingly easy and pleasant experience.
Parking Tech 2.0: End-To-End Solutions
But as pleasant as these technologies made the parking experience, they still had limitations. Most notably, they didn’t always integrate well. It wasn’t unusual for top-of-the-line PARCS, LPR, and guidance tools to lose efficiency or effectiveness when combined. Often, key functions of individual tools wouldn’t work at all because of this lack of full compatibility.
For owners, there are few things as frustrating as spending tens—sometimes hundreds—of thousands of dollars on a variety of tools that are supposed to work together but don’t have the promised capabilities. That’s why the next generation of parking technologies will revolve around end-to-end solutions.
In fact, the next generation of end-to-end solutions is here.
An end-to-end solution is a parking technology system that can handle any task an owner or operator faces related to parking. And it’s totally customizable to meet the specific needs of that owner or operator. The components are guaranteed to work together because they are designed and built specifically to work together.
End-to-end solutions are easier to operate too because there aren’t multiple software packages or dashboards to navigate. And if there are maintenance or repair issues, it’s not necessary to call multiple providers to fix problems. There’s one supplier, one system to manage, one dashboard, and one data aggregator.
Why does this matter? Let’s take a look, starting with your relationship with your technology provider. With an end-to-end solution you don’t have to pursue multiple procurement processes. You benefit from a single purchasing process. And once you receive your equipment, you don’t need to integrate anything; it comes integrated. You don’t have to worry about whether your various pieces of equipment will work together or figure out how to make it happen.
The same goes for your operations platform. You don’t need to train staff to master multiple systems and platforms because there’s a single platform that runs your entire parking operation. Likewise, your staff don’t need to learn multiple dashboards, which can be a daunting and confusing task. Just as there’s one system managing your PARCS, contactless payments, parking guidance, and other elements, there’s also one dashboard reporting on each and all these functions.
Service is also easier with an end-to-end solution. Just as there’s a single company providing the equipment, there’s also a single source for service. This is an important benefit because parking technology does sometimes require service, and when your parking suite is comprised of technologies provided by different manufacturers, it’s not always clear which technology provider should be called in to service the equipment.
For instance, say the entry gates in your frictionless system aren’t opening as they should. Do you call the PARCS supplier? What if your problem lies with the LPR equipment? The PARCS provider isn’t going to be able to help you. With an end-to-end solution, you never face that issue. If something goes wrong, you just call your technology provider. Since they’ve built and installed the entire technology package, they’ll be able to quickly identify the problem and fix it.
Finally, with an end-to-end solution there’s just one source of data. You don’t need to collect and analyze data from multiple sources and then try to figure out how to integrate it into a useful format. All the utilization, management, and financial data is available on the cloud, at the push of a button, from one source.
The importance of having a single, convenient source of data can’t be overstated. It allows you to analyze how your parking facility is being used and then use that data to run your facility more efficiently while providing a better parker experience. Look for a system that allows you to monitor activity and manage the system from a single web-based portal. This will provide instant access to utilization data, so you know how many cars are in your facility at the moment, or how many were in the facility at a particular time or over a period of time. The best system will also permit you to implement management imperatives, such as changing parking rates in real time or on a schedule.
Customization is an essential benefit of an end-to-end solution. You aren’t limited by the capabilities of various technology providers and the ability of their tools to work together. A full end-to-end solution will allow you to select any of the tools you’d like to implement—and only those tools. You don’t have to buy functions you don’t need just because they are bundled into a tool that does something that you do need.
So, what types of technologies are offered in an end-to-end solution?
Well, as with any technology suite, everything starts with access and control equipment. An end-to-end solution will include entry and access gates; payment equipment—either in-lane or pay-on-foot, and the software to run it; a choice of indoor and outdoor parking guidance, and the ability to combine them so you can offer guidance for both covered and uncovered spaces; variable message signage connected to the guidance technology so you can let drivers know how many spaces are available and where they can be found; LPR technology to facilitate frictionless parking; enforcement capabilities; an easy-to-use dashboard for managing data and analytics; and a mobile app that drivers can use to find available spaces, find their cars if they forget where they parked, and make cashless contactless payments to streamline the payment process.
Owners merely select the tools that are required to meet their specific needs, and the provider creates a suite comprised of those tools. On installation day, owners have a parking technology suite comprised of technologies that will work together out of the box.
Better Approaches, Better Technologies, Better Results
Over the past 15 years, numerous technologies have been introduced to make parking more customer friendly, manageable, and profitable. Now, with the introduction of end-to-end technology solutions, those technologies are working better than ever before. End-to-end is a better approach that offers owners and operators access to better technologies and helps them achieve better results.
Shareena Sandbrook is the CEO of Frogparking. She can be reached at email@example.com.