My lunch on Friday with Don Shoup and Mike Manville at UCLA was entertaining and thought provoking. I told them about my discussion with Frost and Sullivan, the research company that sells reports to all sectors of industry.
They were bemused by the “how long is a piece of string” questions like “What percentage of the parking equipment supplier dollar is hardware, software, and service/maintenance?” Huh? How can anyone answer that question? It must, by definition, be different in every situation, every installation, every sale.
I was able to get my head around “what is the next big disruption?”
I told F and S that we were in the middle of a ‘disruption’ at this point, and that was the use of smart phones to do most tasks now handled by the ‘hardware/software’ legacy companies. Tasks like collecting money, making reservations, finding parking, and yes, even opening gates, validating your stay, and replacing credentials like access cards and AVI transponders.
Shoup and Manville agreed that smart phones are changing the face of parking but wondered if more was on the way.
I posited that parking meters, both single and multi space, were a bridge technology and that they would be replaced, within a decade or so, by a device in the vehicle, either built in or acquired, that used GPS to locate the vehicle, determine whether it was legal to park and how much was to be charged, compute the time parked, collect the fee, and if required, issue a citation. (Perhaps that device could also be a smart phone).
Shoup mused that GPS wasn’t accurate enough down to the couple of feet often needed to determine if a car was too close to a driveway or over a red zone or near a fire hydrant. Mike thought at it would be enough for the system to notify enforcement and have an officer dispatched to physically check for the citation and write it. Of course overstays could be simply mailed out to the vehicle owner. I noted that technology was moving so fast that GPS accuracy would reach that ‘one foot’ quickly.
But how has the ubiquitous smart phone actually disrupted our industry? In one way, it is forcing legacy companies to rethink how they market they products and services. In the F and S “piece of string” question, the companies will shift from hardware pricing to software pricing, as ticket machines, refrigerator sized pay on foot, and the like will go away and be replaced by behind the scenes software and servers. The concept of charging hundreds of thousands for software and support will not be foreign to parking.
This approach will also mean fewer staff will be required to run garages and operators will have to rethink their services. Rather than supply accounting and personnel to take money perhaps they will supply new and creative ways to market parking space and assist drivers in a concierge style operation.
Shoup and Manville, who by the way is a major contributor to Shoup’s new book, Parking and the City, promised to give my disruption ideas some thought. A new book, perhaps. Its been almost 15 years since Shoup’s last book. In the next decade and a half, and many lunches, perhaps we will know whether I’m right, not so right or have ‘adjusted’ my forecasts to fit the world as it turns.