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Does it Smart? Lesson from Intertraffic

I’m always asked “what is new at Intertraffic?” After walking around for three days, the answer is “Everything is “SMART.” It is like half the booths have added the word “Smart” to their titles or descriptions. SMART parking, SMART Sensors, SMART Technology, SMART gates, SMART controls, SMART apps and of course the ubiquitous SMART City.

When you ask the denizens of these vendors what SMART means, they look confused, then say something like “you know, our technology is SMART.”

I decided to look it up.



smart·er, smart·est a. Having or showing intelligence; bright.

  1. Canny and shrewd in dealings with others: a smart negotiator.
  2. Amusingly clever; witty: a smart quip; a lively, smart conversation.
  3. Impertinent; insolent: That’s enough of your smart talk.
  4. Energetic or quick in movement: a smart pace.
  5. Fashionable; elegant: a smart suit; a smart restaurant; the smart set.
  6. Capable of making adjustments that resemble those resulting from human decisions, chiefly by means of electronic sensors and computer technology: smart missiles; smart machines.

intransitive verb

smart·ed, smart·ing, smarts

  1. To cause a sharp, usually superficial, stinging pain: The slap delivered to my face smarted.
  2. To be the location of such a pain: The incision on my leg smarts.
  3. To feel such a pain.
  4. To suffer acutely, as from mental distress, wounded feelings, or remorse: “No creature smarts so little as a fool” ( Alexander Pope )


  1. Sharp pain or anguish: the smart of the wound,
  2. Iintelligence; expertise: a reporter with a lot of smarts.

So we can say intelligent, or fashionable, witty, clever, all good. But I think we mean something like:

Capable of making adjustments that resemble those resulting from human decisions, chiefly by means of electronic sensors and computer technology: smart missiles; smart machines.

So smart means machines making decisions or adjustments that seem human, albeit, very quickly.

We have a tendency to hijack terms and then allow their definition to drift to fit whatever we need. SMART is a classic example. Four decades ago we used the term to either mean “She is Smart” as in “Gets straight ‘A’s” or “She looks good, well dressed, probably businesslike.”

Today we use the term to define a city, a phone, a sensor, a gate, a computer application. Do we mean “that city get’s straight “A’s”?  As I was rummaging around Google, I found this – an acronym which I had heard before but like so much, forgotten:

  • Specific – Can the detail in the information sufficient to pinpoint problems or opportunities? Is the objective sufficiently detailed to measure real-world problems and opportunities?
  • Measurable – Can a quantitative or qualitative attribute be applied to create a metric?
  • Actionable – Can the information be used to improve performance? If the objective doesn’t change behaviour in staff to help them improve performance, there is little point in it!
  • Relevant – Can the information be applied to the specific problem faced by the marketer?
  • Time-bound – Can objectives be set for different time periods as targets to review against?

I rather like applying this to the technology that overwhelms here at Intertraffic. Its not that the technology is ‘intelligent’ or ‘can make adjustments that resemble those resulting from human decisions,’ but considers the information in a real-world way. Can it be measured, can you use it to better performance, is it relevant to a specific problem and can it be measured against time.

Then again, maybe I’m just not SMART enough.


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Intertraffic: NOKIA, Designa, Old and New Friends

The first day at Intertraffic was filled with meeting old friends and making new ones. First of all, the show is huge. Over 850 exhibits will be seen by 30,000 attendees over the four days. Fantastic.

The Intertraffic folks have an interesting way of asking folks to appear on their seminar program. They put my name on the program then sent an email asking if I would serve as moderator on a couple of the panels. I was happy to do it.

Highlighting the event was Mauritz Borjeson from Easy Park. He gave a tremendous presentation on where the world of parking and transportation is going and then how companies like his provide apps that not only help people find parking, but also provide data for cities to quickly see where their enforcement isn’t working, what areas always have available parking, and assistance in rate setting. He did it all without so much as a nod toward his company. Well done, Mauritz.

Around the four sessions, I was able to meet and chat with a number of folks including Gary Neff from Park Assist, Khristian Gutierrez and Devin Patel from Passport, Iliara Riva from HUB and consultant Michael Klein. Peter Guest and his wife Jane dropped by the booth and held forth while we made calls on exhibitors nearby.

I had a most interesting talk with Tom Sivak, new CEO of Designa.US. I frankly don’t remember meeting him, but he remembered me (seen you around trade shows). I have been soundly criticized by my staff for not remembering people’s names. Its one of my many faults. Its not that I don’t care, I just don’t seem to have the memory space. I will remember Tom. He is an impressive guy.

I also met with Laurence Bannerman and Adolfo Deltodesco of Aipark, the Italian Parking Association. If there is anyone in Europe who is “Mister Parking,” its Laurence.

Astrid asked me to tag along for a meeting with Nokia. I wasn’t sure why we were meeting with a smart phone company but Matthias Jablonowski and Jochen Apel of their Nokia”s Global Transport Segment sat me straight.

This division of the high tech company provides infrastructure communications for smart city applications (sensors in street lighting, traffic signals, and a hundred other things). They don’t make the sensors, or the computers at the other end that collect and process the data. They make the routers and infrastructure that carry the data from one place to another. Its extremely important since if that fails, all the rest is useless. Interesting guys from an interesting and important company.

Its warming up a bit. Today was in the 40s with no wind, the past two days have barely been above freezing with a sharp wind chill factor.

More tomorrow from Amsterdam


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Raising Parking Fees – “What were you thinking?”

Charleston, SC, is raising meter prices to equal garage prices. The local hospitality workers are enraged because this is dipping into their pocketbooks in a big way. Seems they park on street because it costs less. Oh, and the city is also extending enforcement til later in the evening, meaning additional costs for workers.

Hold the phone! Why would it cost less to park on street, a few steps from your destination, that to park in a structure a block or two away? Wouldn’t the more convenient space cost more? It seems the pricing was upside down to begin with. Of course, that’s the way it is in many cities. Buck an hour onstreet, $5 an hour in the structure.

The cooks, waiters, and baristas who park in those onstreet spots to save money are also missing something. They are taking their customer’s spaces. I understand the need to save money, particularly when you are on a budget, but to do so by making it more difficult for you boss to cover your paycheck? I don’t think so.

The article posted on Parknews.biz had some ideas – shuttles from lots on the periphery of the city, permits to reduce parking rates in structures for local employees, building rapid transit (a brilliant short term solution) – and the city council is mulling. But the key is this graph:

City Council didn’t vote on the issue because it already approved the parking meter changes late last year during the 2018 budget process. The decision was part of the plan to avoid raising homeowners’ property taxes to cover extra expenses this year, including a cost-of-living raise for city employees.

Did you note the words “budget” and “cover extra expenses” in the story? Yep – parking fees were being raised to cover costs unrelated to parking. It was also buried in the budget passed last year. Oh Please.

Now, after the raise is said and done, it comes to light. To quote a late-night host talking to a movie star caught with a prostitute “What were you thinking?” No wonder the local citizens are reaching for the torches and pitchforks.

Come on Charleston. Parking is one of the most emotive subjects you address. You can do better than this.


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But there aren’t enough attendees at your show

Organizers of trade events take a lot of abuse from exhibitors due to the lack of traffic in their booths. Their concern seems always to be the ratio between exhibitor personnel and attendees, or as they say, potential customers. Fair Enough.

This issue usually raises its head on the last day, when the number of attendee badges in the exhibit hall is at its lowest and exhibitors are forced to play on their smart phones or, gasp, talk to each other.

A few years ago I began to wonder just how much business is done between exhibiting companies. Let’s say I sell PARCS systems and you sell meters or multi space machines. I have a customer, a city, that is buying an off street system from me, but has been muttering about upgrading their on street equipment. I am wandering around the exhibit floor and am attracted to your booth. We talk, develop a relationship, and maybe, just maybe, I can help you sell your equipment where I’m selling mine.

Or, perhaps I sell License Plate Recognition equipment and you sell PARCS. Perhaps you are not too happy with the LPR equipment you use. I would kill to have you wander into my booth.

What if, in the sales process, I learn that my customer is just dying to buy what you sell but she doesn’t know you exist. Would it not be reasonable for us to team up and make the deal?

The other day I got a call from an exhibitor who was asking about the number of cities who were in attendance. He sold a very specialized type of parking meter and told me that he only wanted to see cities, no one else.

I posited that there may be 40 or so vendors that also sold to cities, but didn’t sell meters. Perhaps he should spend some time networking with them? Who knows? He just might get a leg up in some city because of a relationship he made at the trade show.

There are hundreds of scenarios just like those above.

When I sold PARCS systems I was constantly running into deals that required something we didn’t make, and I usually found those things when I was wandering around the exhibit hall when the traffic in my booth was slow.

A couple of decades ago, in another life, I was sitting in a booth at a trade event in London. I was bored out of my skull. I decided I was going to stop the next person that walked by and talk to them.

I did. The man told me I didn’t make what he needed. I asked him what he needed and he described a system that we certainly did make, but since this was a security show and not a fire detection show, we didn’t display it.

We talked for and hour and less than a year later I had an order for more than half a million pounds.

I have many stories like that but suffice it to say that successful exhibitors turn their presence into success, no matter what the attendance.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

By the way, we are running well ahead of last year’s attendee bookings at PIE 2018.


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Cleveland need more parking, or does it?

I don’t know downtown Cleveland very well. And an article posted on parknews.biz indicated that the businesses thought they needed more parking. It was at a meeting of the Cleveland City Council. Here is the heart of the story:

Business owner Denise McNeeley asked council members what the city’s plan is for additional parking and urged city staff (especially Police Chief Mark Gibson) to enforce downtown parking limits, which is two hours in most situations.

Gibson said his staff attempts to monitor parking, and violations, to the best of their abilities. “We continue to mark tires, to enforce violations,” he said. After an inquiry, he said the cost of a parking violation is $16.

McNeeley said use of the parking spaces by employees and Lee University students, “Hinders downtown businesses, like mine.”

Wow. So, we really don’t know if there is a dearth of parking. We only know that the business owners want downtown limits enforced. And the police will continue to the best of their abilities.

First of all, police by definition don’t like to write parking tickets. It’s the lowest level of policing and let’s face it, if there is a robbery in progress, they aren’t going to stop and write a ticket.

“Mark Tires.” This indicates there are areas with no meters. As we know too well, chalking tires is at the bottom of ways to enforce parking violations.

Oh, and the fine for over parking is $16? Doesn’t sound like enough for people to be concerned about getting a citation.

AND the local college students are the biggest violators.

There are a number of issues here.

First – How about upgrading your technology from chalk to LPR. There are a bunch of companies. And you might be able to write more tickets and let people know they can’t get by with overstaying.

Second — $16 a citation, oh please.

Third – Rethink how your parking is managed. Perhaps a separate parking division that isn’t divided between the police, the street department and others might help.

Fourth – I could go on and on.

It sounds like Cleveland needs some parking help. I’ll bet a great number of spaces could be freed up, if it has the political will do to so. Julie Dixon call your office.

We will keep our eye on it.


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Autonomous Vehicles described without the Bias

I am constantly railing against the media that reports on self-driving vehicles stating that they are biased and unclear. Yesterday Astrid posted on parknews.biz an article entitled: “Five levels of parking autonomy explained.” It is from a website called “Gearbrain” and written by Alistair Charlton.

It perfectly describes the five levels of self driving vehicles and how Uber and Lyft won’t replace car ownership until we have a full fledged level 5.

Level 1 is available on high end cars today – It includes things like a speed control that automatically senses the car in front and speeds up or slows down as it does and a ‘stay in lane’ feature that nudges you back in the lane if you drift out. Must have 100% driver control

Level 2 is the Tesla approach. To wit:

Level Two systems can look mightily impressive, but in reality the car is doing little more than following the leader or keeping between the while lines. These systems cannot deal with city center road networks, junctions, pedestrian crossings, single-lane roads with no markings, poor weather and many other situations. As before, the driver is fully accountable for the actions of the car and can place no blame on the system in the event of a collision.

Level 3 is nebulous. Its covers a gray area between level 2 and level 4.

When enabled, the system actively takes over control of the car and the monitoring of its surroundings. Where Level Two technology requires constant attention from the driver, Level Three does not — but only to an extent. For example, Audi’s system can drive the A8 in highway traffic at up to 37mph, but beyond that speed the driver must take back control.

Driver must be available to swing into action if the on board computer tell her to.

Level 4 This is what automakers are currently working towards and describes a system where the car is capable of driving itself almost all of the time. This includes highway driving (at any legal speed), as well as town and city driving where the road layouts are far more complex.

Single-lane country roads are also theoretically included in a Level Four vehicle’s skill set, although poor weather and unusual events (complex roadworks and diversions, for example) will require the driver to take back control. Level Four autonomy featured on several concept cars at the Geneva motor show. The Rimac C_Two electric hypercar is claimed to have Level Four — or rather, it is claimed to once it actually goes into production. Meanwhile, Aston Martin’s revived Lagonda brand showed off a luxury electric limo concept also boasting Level Four driving

Level 5 Completely theoretical for now, Level Five autonomy is where humans have no control over the vehicle at all — other than telling it where to take them.

Such cars will navigate all kinds of roads without issue, no matter what the weather conditions are like, and allow passengers to work, eat, read or even sleep while onboard. This is the end goal for Google and Uber, who want to offer robotic taxi services for customers who aren’t able to get around on their own.

Tesla’s Elon Musk said in the spring of 2017 that one of his cars would drive from a parking lot in California to a parking lot in New York without its driver touching any controls for the entire journey. After promising to conduct this test in late-2017, it is yet to actually happen. Musk, well-known for delivering late, also said Tesla owners would be able to sleep in their cars by 2019, a claim which now seems unlikely. A more likely short-term scenario is that Level Five vehicles will be used in controlled environments, such as for shuttle passengers around airports, or in large, open pedestrianised areas.

Level 5 is the only ‘threat’ to our industry. And its completely theoretical. We are barely in level 2. So have an adult beverage, celebrate the end of winter, and enjoy. Parking isn’t going anywhere for a long, long time.

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I’m Going to Break the Law

I have been musing lately about breaking the law. Is it ever necessary? Should we ever do it?

Take driving. How often do we intentionally break the law while we drive in our daily lives? It may have to do with speed, or crossing double lines, passing on the right, or any number of other minor infractions.

Many who are thinking about autonomous vehicles are discussing how they will save many lives since they will stay within the traffic laws and be able to react more quickly than humans to different traffic situations. Fair Enough.

Now I read that many of the features in autonomous vehicles can be placed today in the cars that require human drivers. Only about 40% of the cars on earth have anti-lock brakes. What about autonomous breaking control and speed controls.

Let’s take speed controls. The idea is that maps and controls can be downloaded so that you cannot go faster than the speed limit set by the government on any road or highway. In fact, the controls listed above are being mandated in cars sold in Europe beginning this year.

What if the speed limit is 60 mpg and I want to pass a semi going 55. How long will it take to pass if I am limited to 60? What if I need to get to the hospital with a sick child? What if I’m being chased by robbers? All these seem to be legitimate reasons to exceed the speed limit.

But if I cannot exceed the limit due to state mandated rules that are built into my car, then what?

It seems to me that we need to think about these issues. Technology is making many things possible. But should they be?

Just sayin…


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Join us for “Usquebaugh” at PIE 2018

I was sitting here counting the cars in Neutrogena’s parking lot when I got a note from Mike Bigbee reminding me that we are hosting an elite whisky tasting event at PIE this year. Mike and I have selected four unique tastes from the homeland of usquebaugh, the “water of life” as it is known and will be serving it up along with stories about whisky and our experiences in Scotland.

This event will be during the “Death by Parking” party Tuesday night at PIE. We have cordoned off a special area and will have only those who have purchased a ticket in attendance. It won’t be cheap, but it will be worth the money.

Stories about whisky abound. Two of my favorites surround Laphroaig and Glenmorangie.

Laphroaig is a rough and tumble whisky. It is distilled on the Island if Islay, in the Irish Sea of the northwest coast of Scotland. The barrels are aged in warehouses that are right up against the sea. Storms and high tides send spray around the warehouse and the salty, iodine taste of the ocean surround the casks and over the years seep through to the whisky. If you like Laphroaig, you are said to have a very perverse taste. You will get to experience it at our tasting at PIE.

In my early years of whisky knowledge, I was offered a taste of a private label whisky put up by an insurance company in the UK. The crusty old Scot who was sharing the malt asked us if we could identify it (from the over 200 different scotches available). I told him that the only whisky I knew was Glenmorangie.

“My God, Man,” he grumbled in his wonderful brogue, “My mother lives across the Firth of Fourth from that distillery. Do you know they make it in a Quonset Hut?” I have never tasted Glenmorangie since. Neither will you at PIE.

There will be more stories about how whisky is made, why most of the distilleries are located off the beaten path, and we will tell you all about the “Angel’s Share.”

There are a very limited number of tickets available. You can purchase them as you register on line, at the registration desk at PIE, or at the door at the “Death by Parking” Party, if any are still available.

Join us.


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Astrid Ambroziak Named PT Parking Association Liaison

Parknews.biz editor Astrid Ambroziak has been named by Parking Today as the liaison between the magazine and over 50 parking organizations, worldwide. “Our goal is to give these associations a way to publicize their activities not only to their membership but to others in the parking industry who may not even be aware the organization exists,” said, John Van Horn, Editor of Parking Today.

“I’m looking forward to creating a niche for associations at Parking Today Media,” Ambroziak, said. “We want to use all our tools including the magazine, web sites, blogs, and newsletters to help associations give voice to their activities. Their members work hard to create training, networking, and social activities all of which strengthen our industry.”

These associations are not limited to larger groups such as the National Parking Association and the Parking Association of Australia, but also to regional associations like MAPA, the Parking Association of Georgia, PIPTA, the Texas Parking Association, and Women in Parking. Counting the individual country members of the European Parking Association and groups in Africa, Asia, and South America, there are more than 50 parking entities.

“Parking Today is making a point to attend as many of these meetings as possible and report on what they are doing,” said Van Horn. “You will be seeing one of our staff popping up at parking meetings around the world this coming year.”

“We are in the process of expanding our website to include pages for each of the organizations where calendars, activities, boards, contact information, and association goals can be listed,” he continued. “Astrid will ensure the data is current and that timely information reaches readers through Parknews as well as Parking Today.”

“Remember that although posting on line can be done within a day, you must get information to us well ahead of time to get it in the magazine,” said Ambroziak. “The Parking Today deadline is the first of the month before the month of the activity. (January 1 for an activity taking place in February, etc.)”

To be sure your organization’s contact information is correct send the name and email of the person selected to provide publicity to astrid@parkingtoday.com. You may also send all information about your association directly to her beginning now.



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And I bet the City Government isn’t the Slightest bit Embarrassed

Why does the government make such a target rich environment? Yesterday I was perusing my favorite news aggregator, parknews.biz, and I found a link that read:

 “Blue curb parking for disabled still lacking one year into new program”

Was it clickbait? Surely there was a reason for this. The disabled always take the lead in new programs, don’t they? The Story was in the LA Times.

Early last year the city of the angels passed an ordinance that allowed disabled drivers to apply to have a disabled ‘blue curb’ painted in front of their homes This seems like a reasonable program and upwards of 500 citizens have applied for the program and been approved.

Here is the reason for the story. How many curbs do you think have actually been painted in the year the program began? 50, 100, dare we say 500? Nope. The total number is zero. Zip, Nada. Not one curb has been painted.

Why?  Enquiring minds want to know. An audit by the city cited:

…ineffective collaborations between the city Department on Disability, the Department of Transportation, the Bureau of Street Services and the Bureau of Engineering as the primary reason for the delay. The audit recommends handing administration of the program to the Department of Transportation, with the Department on Disability continuing to provide technical advice.

Somewhere in the cobwebbed basement of city hall is a “guy.” He’s the one that schedules where the curb painters go to work today. My guess is that if someone told him to schedule the blue curb painting in areas where his crews were working painting other curbs (red, yellow, white, etc), the entire disabled job could be completed in a month.

But then of course what would the bureaucrats at the department of this and the bureau of that have to do?

I mentioned this story to a friend of mine and he noted that the money allocated for the painting had already been spent by the Department of Transportation, the Bureau of Street Services, the Bureau of Engineering and the Department on Disability. So there was nothing left to buy the blue paint.

Maybe the fee charged the disabled when they applied for their curb painting could be used for the paint. Wait…I’m sure that has been spent by the department of blue curb painting approvals.

(A disabled friend of mine decided to take it upon herself a few years ago and she and her roomate went to Home Depot and bought some blue paint and painted the curb in front of their apartment themselves. You gotta know how long it took the city to turn up and paint over the curb. Yep — the next day.)


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