Is Parking’s Emerging Tech an Early Sunrise or a Bright Sunny Day?


Is Parking’s Emerging Tech an Early Sunrise or a Bright Sunny Day?

When I hear “emerging technology” I think of the sun coming up first thing in the morning. Its dark, then the day gets brighter and brighter. Technology sometimes works that way. We hear about it, then it becomes more apparent, then its everywhere.

In our industry, technology seems to simmer then suddenly it’s the flavor of the month. I think what happens is that technology moves onto the scene before its ready.

Back in the day, Pay on Foot Machines found their way across the Atlantic and were put in place here in the US. They were originally designed for coin operations in countries that had coins that covered up to the equivalent of $5. They made change in coin. Fair enough.

However in a society that uses paper for all denominations above $1, the technology had not advanced far enough to properly handle paper. There was another issue. ATMs even in their infancy, were housed in a ‘through the wall’ design with the innards air conditioned and filtered. It was decades before we would see ATMS in every 711 and gas station. Parking is a hard place to make technology work.

However, as tech improved and met the requirements of the parking environment, POF became routine.

Another example is License Plate Recognition. Let’s face it, a decade or two ago, it simply didn’t work. 70% or 80% accuracy wouldn’t hack it. Once again the parking environment gave engineers headaches.

While LPR worked well in traffic environments where all the license plates were the same font and color (most of the rest of the world), and where extreme accuracy was not required, it faltered in garages in the US where having to read a dozen different fonts and three times that many designs in one state was not unusual. Plus when you are opening a gate or collecting money based on the license plate, accuracy was not important, it was required.

Technology marched on. LPR emerged in the 1990s and became relatively routine in the past five or so years.

What is “emerging” today that we will become routine as soon as tech catches up with the requirements of the industry?

How about using cell phones to open gates? We see it here and there, but let’s face it, smart phones work great for humans who are willing to futz with them and accept that from time to time they simply fail. I can just see five cars backed up because ATT isn’t as powerful as T Mobile in this neighborhood.  Maybe the upcoming G5 bandwidth will help. Remember the problems some cities have when, during peak holiday cell phone traffic, their wifi shuts down and online citation management ceases to work.

One of the reasons that autonomous vehicles are very slowly emerging is that unlike smart phones that can work or not and there is no disaster, one failure and human lives are at stake.

Making Technology work in the parking business is extremely difficult. We have a relatively small group of companies supplying a relatively small marketplace. It takes times to work out all the bugs in such an environment. Plus its expensive. Venture capital is coming to help with the financial end. But who knows?

Our expectations used to be set by Gene Roddenberry. Today they are set by the folks at Apple and Microsoft. Its OK if things don’t work 100%. You can always try again. Unfortunately often that doesn’t work in our world.

There appears to be decades between our emerging tech’s sunrise and that bright sunny morning.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. We still waiting for garages that able to fill our need of parking slot. How much parking is our need, no body knows. But the sign of shortage of parking slot is every where. People have to walk miles to their destination door, over burdened public park. etc etc.
    In the other side, the number of car steadily increasing. And every single car need a place to rest when not in use.

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