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The Key to Parking Technology: Keep it Simple, Stupid

April 16, 2018

Kathleen Laney

Interconnected technologies are now an inescapable reality. Today it’s routine to hail a ride, navigate to a destination or pay for a parking spot through a handy dandy mobile phone. In fact, we have integrated technology into our lives to such a degree it’s hard to fathom going back to a time when we didn’t have such convenience. All of this is particularly astonishing because just a decade ago most of these technologies weren’t around at all or, at the very least, were not used by the general population. 


This month’s issue of Parking Today, is actually the Parking Technology Today issue. This will be the fifth year PT has run this issue, devoting the entire edition to taking a look at how technology is affecting the industry. 


I went back and read JVH’s ‘Point of View’ from the first Parking Technology Today in October of 2014 to see how the self-proclaimed Luddite would frame the conversation on the topic of technology in parking. Both in that column and to this day, JVH continues to demand that the technology we adopt and bring into our lives, not just in parking, but in all aspects, have a purpose, a benefit to our lives. 


Not a completely unreasonable request.


After all, technology is increasingly ubiquitous. It’s transforming almost everything we do, and the pace of change is only accelerating. And for all that progress, technology isn’t always as simple and reliable as what it replaces.


Simple is good.


Before the digital age, things were much simpler. Now, I’m not necessarily saying better, but simpler. Take paying for parking. I remember the first time I attended the Temecula Parking Group thinktank a few years ago. Even one of the Millennial-aged parking start-up founders in attendance admitted it’s sometimes simpler to get a quarter out to put in a meter than to pay for your spot via your phone. Not always, but sometimes.


Today we carry potent, pocket-sized, voice enabled computers capable of connecting us instantly to all human knowledge and with anyone, anywhere on the planet. My Samsung Galaxy S8 is way more powerful than the massive desktop I took to college with me 20 years ago, and at less than half the price. But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to make every part of my day simpler.


Good technology products solve complex technical problems behind the scenes, presenting the solution in a simple experience that anyone can use or understand. 


Simplicity is even the key to parking technology success.


In parking, technology must make the parking experience more seamless, or in other words – simpler. In conversations I’ve had with JVH, he’s admitted he was a bit skeptical about the whole online parking reservation thing at first. But then again, he’s said, it makes sense if you are buying your ticket to a show or concert, or making reservations for a special dinner for Friday night downtown, to reserve your parking spot at the same time.


Traditional parking technologies that have been the cornerstone of parking operations have been the parking access and revenue control systems (PARCS). More recently, parking guidance systems have been added to facilitate parking more efficiently, and data management and analytic platforms are helping operators optimize their operations.


The next wave of parking technology will result in simplicity for the passenger,
but how simple will it be to implement?


The next wave of parking technology will actually be in the form of products and services integrating with other transportation platforms and products for a seamless mobility experience. Between smart cities and autonomous vehicles, parking technology is being integrated into cars and transportation platforms to make it easier for people to get to where they are going. Even those pesky first and last mile problems are getting addressed.


This is all great news. This is where we should be going, and this is where we want to be going. But let’s all be just a wee-bit realistic. This is not going to be easy for any of us in parking to execute. Integrating products and services with players from various industries, working even more closely with governments, and making all of these emerging technologies actually work is going to be no easy feat. 


The parking industry has what some would call a Big Hairy Audacious Goal on its plate. But I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out and how we innovate to solve our modern mobility challenges. I have complete faith we will figure out how to keep things simple and sweet.



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