Opening Up Parking Management Technology

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Opening Up Parking Management Technology


OPINION By Gorm Tuxen



more technology-centric in recent years, software has become increasingly important. Today, the industry revolves around technology. Owners and operators rely on parking access and revenue control systems to manage payments and access to and from their facilities; they use smart meters and pay-onfoot equipment to make it easier for patrons to pay while cutting down on theft and fraud; and parking guidance systems direct drivers to open spaces while providing invaluable utilization data for owners and operators to better manage their parking assets. We are in the midst of a glorious technology age that is transforming the parking industry in ways that were unimaginable just a few short years ago. As exciting as this trend is for the industry, we still have a long way to go. While we have seen many new innovative equipment offerings in recent years, the industry has lagged when it comes to open data integration. We may be taking giant leaps when it comes to hardware, but we are taking baby steps when it comes to making related software and firmware open to allow the data from these various database platforms to be shared in a nonrestricted fashion. How often have you heard stories about shiny new equipment being introduced to the industry—equipment with all kinds of bells and whistles—that ends up stumbling out of the gate and not performing as expected? When this happens, the problem can often be traced back to a lack of understanding of the unique mechanical requirements facing equipment being deployed for public use, closely followed by the inability to develop relevant software and properly monitor and address ongoing failures of the equipment in the field. Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of wireless parking sensors, for instance. Sure, growing pains are to be expected with anything new, but there may be a larger issue at play here: Companies that are great at coming up with ideas for exciting new types of hardware often aren’t as good at developing the operational software that’s needed to support it.


Developing Something New

This is how the process typically works: Really smart people come up with an idea for a technology that can provide extraordinary benefits to parking owners and/or parkers. They get partners together (or if they already work at a parking technology company, perhaps they start a new division), and they get started on building an early prototype that includes all the bells and whistles. What’s next? They need to find software developers, and in many cases specialized manufacturers, to bring the concept to marFor parking’s technology age to ket. These developers and manufacturers may or truly soar, our industry will need to may not know parkembrace the principle of open data sharing, ing, and their ability through which third-party developers who to create relevant software and manuare deeply familiar with the information facture durable hardmanagement needs and parking challenges ware will be limited facing owners and operators are permitted to by their experience create software that will improve and expertise. It’s inevitable that something the operation—and ultimately the will get lost in translation. value—of their equipment. It’s not the fault of the technology company overseeing the project or the software developers and manufacturers they hire. It’s just the nature of the beast. Any closed ecosystem is limited by the skills, knowledge, and experience of its people. For parking’s technology age to truly soar, our industry will need to embrace the principle of open data sharing, through which third-party developers who are deeply familiar with the information management needs and parking challenges facing owners and operators are permitted to create software that will improve the operation—and ultimately the value—of their equipment. This will also facilitate the customization of the technology to better meet the needs of individual installations. In addition, the parking industry will need to embrace third-party systems monitoring to provide the end users with comprehensive tools and services, which can be consolidated across many various


The beauty of the open IP approach—beyond improving the operations of a single piece of equipment or technology suite—is that it encourages sharing among parking organizations and their technology gurus (either on-staff or consultants).

hardware platforms, to truly allow the parking market to choose “best of breed” solutions without dependence on one particular brand or type of parking technology.

What Is Open IP?

Open IP (open internet protocol) is a communications protocol that allows for the open sharing of data between software from disparate developers or manufactures. The data sharing is facilitated through the use of a secure application program interface (API), which allows two or more different software packages to share data from their databases through the internet. The API follows certain standard protocols and contains the data that one system is designed to share with another. At no time do the software systems impact the operating software of the other connected systems, which offers each developer control over the integrity of their own system, without introducing unknown code or code changes that could make it hard for the end user to clearly identify who to contact for support. The beauty of the open IP approach—beyond improving the operations of a single piece of equipment or technology suite—is that it encourages sharing among parking organizations and their technology gurus (either on-staff or consultants). As a result, organizations can explore, experiment, and share the results of those experiments to create innovative new ways to utilize different types of equipment.

What Is Third-Party Systems Monitoring?

Third-party system monitoring uses the principle of Open IP data sharing. However, in addition to sharing operational data across an API, diagnostics data from multiple hardware systems can also be shared and further analyzed to create a real-time dashboard to allow for the connected equipment to be monitored and supervised. Equipment failures, wireless system disconnects, battery replacements, paper stock, or revenue collection requirements, to mention a few, can be monitored and prioritized from one central point.

Not as Scary as It Sounds

Understandably, many technology companies are hesitant to just hand over access to data from their integrated parking systems data platform or hardware for anyone to mess around with. After all, when you’ve invested a lot of money to develop a system, a piece of equipment, or a data platform you think will revolutionize the way we park, do you really want anyone messing with it? However, that is the wrong way to look at it. The technology innovators’ payoff in developing new tools comes from seeing their brainchild get widely adopted and extensively used. When parking owners adapt technology to better meet their unique needs, they are more likely to buy that technology (and buy more units and data as their needs grow) and tell their peers about the benefits that they are deriving from the technology. The other supporting aspect to data and operations sharing is the rapid pace with which new technologies are being introduced. The parking industry, after many years of running behind the technology curve, is seeing a host of new and exiting hardware, services, and concepts being introduced. Many of these are open internet-based concepts. The lines between hardware, software, and services are being blurred and will become increasingly virtual in the future. This means shorter shelf life for each individual solution, and success will be achieved through adaptation and integration of third-party solutions. It will take a village, not just one organization or a few legacy companies, to build the future.


Open data sharing provides a win-win-win scenario for parking organizations using equipment parking technology companies and the parking industry itself. Parking organizations using technology and improving their parking software themselves are the obvious winners. No longer will they be constrained by software designed to manage generic parking facilities or parking facilities in other industries. Does it make sense, for instance, for a university’s equipment to be run with software created for airports or municipal parking structures? Doesn’t it make a lot more sense to use


Open data sharing provides a win-winwin scenario for parking organizations using equipment parking technology companies and the parking industry itself. Parking organizations using technology and improving their parking software themselves are the obvious winners.

software that can be customized to meet the unique needs of an individual parking owner and for that software to be able to evolve as the owner’s needs change? Technology providers and manufacturers benefit from open data sharing because by encouraging innovative—and perhaps, experimental—minds to find ways to make their data work better, they improve their own products. Few companies could afford to hire a building full of software development stars, but through open sourcing, companies don’t just get access to a building full of stars, but a world full of them. And it doesn’t cost a penny. Finally, the parking industry itself benefits because an open data-sharing platform encourages the brightest minds in software development to apply their skills to parking management challenges and solutions. Our industry has profited tremendously from all of the bright (in many cases, young) professionals who have migrated to parking from other industries or who have come to parking straight out of school, and an open data-sharing environment would merely accelerate that trend. GORM TUXEN is president/CEO of IPsens, LLC.

He can be reached at