Two Emerging Themes in the Parking Industry Today

Diving deeper into the parking industry.

Lessons learned and themes noticed at the International Parking Institute’s annual conference.

When we think of parking as a consumer, we often think of it at face value. Our priorities are to find answers to questions like “How much does my parking cost per hour?” or “Where is the closest pay station”. The end goal being to find the best location, with the nearest distance to my destination.

But when we think of parking as a business, and a means of creating stronger, smarter cities, the parking experience and it’s potential become much greater than the original face value. Our team was fortunate to have attended the IPI conference and tradeshow this past May, and with over 250 exhibitors in the tradeshow, and a representation of 3,500 parking professionals from over 45 countries, there was no shortage of innovative technologies and creative individuals present.

Over the course of three-day event, I noticed two emerging themes:

Digitization of Parking

Automated Vehicles

The technologies of automated parking have grown significantly in recent years. With the ability to remove human error, eliminate parking frustrations, reduced traffic congestion, lower fuel consumption (enviro-friendly vehicles) and improve mobility, the movement presents a whole new realm of possibility for the world of transportation.

However, what this also brings is major changes to the parking industry. It's important that we are taking the steps needed to adapt and embrace this change to remain competitive within the transportation market. We may not be seeing Automated Vehicles on our streets tomorrow, or even next year, but they are on the horizon and it's important that we prepare for that.

Based on a panel discussion including Michael Flanagan of Sentry Control Systems, it was expressed that the biggest barrier to Automated Vehicles is policy within municipalities. Beyond that, the technology is in place with companies including Volkswagon and Tesla, who are reimagining the transportation industry as we know it to be today.

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Apps have become a bigger part of our lives over the past years since the release of the first iPhone in 2007. Cities are eager to make parking more innovative, using apps as a tool to do so, which speaks to the growth of companies like Passport Parking. Not only do these apps provide users with an easier experience, they help parking authorities save money with more efficient processes.

But having just a parking app isn't enough anymore. Cities are pushing apps that include a parking service, citation management and parking validations, among other services. That being said, cities are also moving towards having a custom made app that hosts a variety of features, including parking, with a city-brand that their citizens trust. The biggest demand from cities is to have these technologies piece together properly, providing a smooth integration with their systems while providing their citizens with an app that serves more than just one purpose.

This theme of digitization of parking is gaining momentum and is continuing to become more innovative everyday. What is particularly interesting is that as this innovation happens, more data points are opening up, increasing the quality and quantity of data collected in the parking industry. What this data collected today leads to, is a smarter city designed for tomorrow.

Smart Cities

Data Collection

One of the biggest trending topics in the tech world, and one that our team is extremely passionate about is Data Collection, Open Data and Data Visualization. Every interaction that a person has with a piece of technology, is a piece of data collected. And with many more technologies, like beacons, sensors and smart phones, used on a regular basis, there is no shortage of data collected. As said by Google’s Eric Schmidt:

“There were 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003, but that much information is now created every 2 days”.

With mounds of data coming in daily, there are so many opportunities to use this data to understand trends and patterns, leading to more efficient cities. This leads to more informed decision making, with tangible evidence and data to back it, in any and all industries.

Take Google for example. Through the app, Google Maps, Google has collected data of saturation of users in various areas to better predict travel times. For example, let’s say I’m in downtown Toronto, looking to go from the Eaton Centre to York University, and I want to find out how long it will take if I drive. Using their data, Google lets me know the possible routes I can take, and how long each will take based on the congestion of traffic (saturation of people using Google/Google products within a given area, among other data collection) to give me an accurate travel time. Some might think that this is invasive, but with anonymous data, this feature provides drivers with an invaluable tool.

Before the Google Maps app had the uptake that it has today, Google was able to provide users with routes to their destination, but couldn't provide details like impact of traffic or weather. With a wider adoption of the app, they are able to provide more detailed routes that consider traffic, construction and weather.

Similar to that of our HotSpot Parking App in Atlantic Canada, our mass adoption of the app allows us to provide more detail. We can take the data around parking sessions and tie it to things like weather patterns, time of the day and time of the year. This allows us to understand how weather and time impact parking within the downtowns we serve, providing our users with a more comprehensive product.

Collaboration Across Industries

The desire for smart cities couldn’t be made more evident than by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, a $40 million prize award to one American city (of 7 finalist cities). The purpose of this challenge is to set the global standard of a ‘Smart City’ with the integration of technologies including self-driving cars, connected vehicles and smart sensors. Forbes has pegged the industry of Smart Cities as a $1.5 trillion market that is continuing to grow as industries become more connected.

As this photo demonstrates, a ‘Smart’ parking industry is only one puzzle piece of a much bigger picture. It is connected to the smart city initiative on a much deeper level, which lends to the need for companies that provide a more robust product offering.

We are confident that the complexity and connectedness of industries will only increase in the years to come with Smart Cities on the rise.

In summary, we truly enjoyed attending this conference alongside our partners, Passport Parking. The conference demonstrated many ideas that stretched outside the boundaries of the industry today, and we’re excited to see how these boundaries continue to grow in time.