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Click and Park: The Future of the Parking Industry

By Madanmohan Rao
Posted Saturday, November 13, 2004

Automobile-dense markets are perfect targets for Web and wireless enabled payment services for parking, which allow for advanced fee collection, decreased operational costs, fewer on-site employees, increased security, predictive parking services and co-branded promotional plans for customers.

For instance, the county government of Burlingame, California, wirelessly regulates its parking meters to stop meter theft and monitor coin deposits. The parking industry itself is estimated at over $500 billion; the US accounts for over 105 million parking spaces.

Half-way across the world, Singaporeans today can use their mobile phones to pay for parking, taxi fares and photo prints. In the Suntec City shopping area, drivers can pay parking tickets via cellphones after having procured a designated PIN (Personal Information Number) with a local services agent. M-solutions providers like Netgalactic ( expect major takeoff in Web and wireless enabled parking solutions for markets ranging from the US to the Asia-Pacific.

In Australia, companies like Telstra are also targeting services which will collapse multiple credit card features into one single cellphone. In Melbourne and Sydney, mobile phone-equipped parking meters are widespread (thanks to features like meter expiry alerts via SMS), and sales at phone-equipped soft-drink machines are reportedly 10 per cent higher than at conventional machines.

Leveraging the Web and handheld devices for parking offers numerous advantages for drivers: avoiding the need to fumble for change, locate attendant booths in labyrinthine parking lots, waste time queuing up at the booths, or deal with the uncertainty and inconvenience of not having guaranteed parking spots. Services offered through such a system would fall into three categories: pre-parking services (eg. viewing, booking, promotion of related commercial goods and services), active services (eg. expiry alerts), and post-parking services (eg. aggregated billing, coupons, co-promotion of other services).

“e-parking” or “m-parking” solutions are bound to work best in locations with high density of spots, office areas, event locations, or lots which are close to transit points (such as subways and ferries).

For parking lot owners and managers, a Web-based wireless-enabled solution offers added advantages of monitoring traffic flow patterns in real time, datamining archives of parking pattern history to unearth useful trends, and offer value-added services in keeping with an increasingly wired and unwired clientele. These could include bulk purchases for companies and tour operators, and promotion of related services like carwash (especially in long term lots).

Key components of such a versatile parking solution include applications (eg. bar-coding), database systems (for spots, corporate clients), messaging, manager dashboard, back-up and security.

With proper planning and robust implementation, parking headaches could soon become a thing of the past in the Internet and wireless age.

In sum, while “Web-enabling” may have been the clarion call of the Internet Age, “handsizing” seems to be the slogan of the Wireless Age, according to Jaclyn Easton, author of “Going Wireless.”

About the Author
Dr. Madanmohan Rao is an Internet consultant and writer based in Bangalore, India. He is the co-author of the handbook "The Internet Economy of India, 2001" and the forthcoming "Asia Pacific Internet Handbook" (McGraw Hill). Madan was formerly the communications director at the United Nations Inter Press Service bureau in New York, and vice president at IndiaWorld Communications in Bombay.


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