By Giovani Forner, Director of Research and Development
Brazil is widely known for its amazing natural beauties and top soccer players, but now a group of engineers from Porto Alegre wants to place the country as a leader also in the automated parking field. Pioneers in providing innovative products, Engeltec developed a new, complete solution for Valet Parking that is shaking the national market, and now they prepare to cross borders, starting with Canada.
Living in a country similar to Canada with continental dimensions, Brazilians love their cars, even though they have to pay among the highest prices in the world to drive them (due, in large part, to high taxes and low market competition). The National Department of Vehicles in Brazil estimates 93,305,422 are currently running through their roads, a number almost three times higher than in Canada. Turning, as a matter of fact, parking into a valuable and competitive business in the South American country.
And Engeltec’s solution is unique to the whole world. It automates the manual steps of bridging all information into one platform. The valet operator needs less people to do the same function, while receiving fast and reliable information from the software. The result is nothing but profit.
The challenge for the Brazilian company, though, was to automate the maximum steps of check-in with no drivers’ interaction. This means the user experience will be as fast as possible, allowing clients to do more with the same amount of human resources from the valet company. Engeltec engineers spent last year perfecting their prototype and now the first model is already in functioning.
One software, three hardwares
The solution combines a software with three simple hardware devices: an OCR camera, a mini Smart Cube and a Pinpark device.
Here’s how it works
The OCR camera recognizes the license plate. Placed above the car, the mini Smart Cube is connected to WiFi to allow the vehicle to be tracked, and it has a multicolor LED light to provide a visual sign to the driver, while the Pinpark device will print the ticket and receive the retrieval advice. In bigger parking lots, the Pinpark
can be replaced by a computer with a touch screen for a more robust solution.
When the customer checks in, the camera recognizes the license plate. As the system is connected with the transit department, information like manufacturer, model and color as well as the plate are filled automatically. Then a complete ticket is printed.
The process continues when the Smart Cube is activated and placed on the top of the car granting the tracking to begin. When the driver parks the car, the location data is sent to the system and the check in is finished.
The car retrieval will be triggered by the payment through the App. When the customer pays the bill, a signal is sent to the system with the car model, color, license plate, the location where the car is parked, and the color of the blinking Smart Cube. When the driver picks up the car, he just needs to look at the cube that is blinking in the location match.
For the customers, the solution brings a great user experience, because the check in and check out is fast and precise. While, for the operators, this cycle generates important data needed for business management. The information will be available in the cloud ready to be accessed by the valet company. And one of the most important features: all the application runs in the cloud, so the operators don’t need to keep servers or additional software in the parking facility – just an internet link.
After gaining experience in Brazil with big clients in diverse businesses, such as shopping malls, hospitals, universities, factories, schools, supermarkets and condos, Engeltec’s senior engineer and head of Research and Development, Giovani
Carlo Forner, says the company is comfortable to explore the Canadian market.
One of the reasons for the instant success of Engeltec’s Valet solution in Brazil is that it practically reduces to zero the rate of internal theft by the employees of parking companies. A study made by the Brazilian Parking Association estimates that non-controlled parking lots have almost 25% of revenue dodged by corrupt employees. An automated system is credited for the reduction of this crime in Brazil.
In Canada, theft percentage is sure to be lower, but the market will be much more demanding and welcoming to innovation at the same time. One of the main attractive points of the great Northern country, according to Mr. Forner, relies in the capacity of investment of Canadian companies. Different from Brazil, business owners in North America are keen to invest in a products in order to achieve even better results.
So, by entering the Canadian market, Engeltec wants not only to bring this new solution, but to improve it even further in an environment that will stimulate new possibilities for this innovative product.
And the Brazilian company is confident that their first venture in international lands will be a success due to the experience with a similar market size. In terms of comparison, the current size of the Canadian market they are willing to approach can be approximated to the one in Engeltec’s hometown, Porto Alegre. The 10th largest city in Brazil has around 40,000 Valet spots. To attempt to manage this car flow, the solution should be very robust, since the turnover is usually three or four times in a day. And that is something Engeltec can easily do.
Tech incubator roots
The company has been developing parking lot solutions since 2006. It was born in Tecnopuc, in Porto Alegre, the biggest tech park in Latin America, an innovative epicenter that could resemble Waterloo, in Ontario. As the parking market in Brazil was growing at a fast pace, Engeltec has been continuously developing new products to match the demand.
During its incubation period, Engeltec’s developers worked on creating a parking solution involving hardware and software, for which they focused on starting something from scratch and perfect the components through the years.
Their first client was already a big challenge, because it was a racing circuit stadium used for big events, which meant that all clients were coming in and out at around the same time, therefore demanding high performance from the parking equipment. At the time, there was no parking solution connected to the internet in Brazil and the product Engeltec was bringing to the market was super-innovative.
Clients were buying a ticket at a point of sale, but this ticket was actually a Radio-Frequency identification (RFID) card that would be used for them to access the parking lot as well as to get into the concert area. Everything was online and could be managed remotely.
Soon, many other big clients seemed to be interested in this innovative product, given the booming parking business. Almost ten years ago there were no good tools for data management of parking companies at a competitive cost. Shopping malls in the biggest cities of Brazil contacted Engeltec to learn more about the customer experience they were bringing to life.
And, so, Engeltec decided to position itself as a full solution company. In a niche market where the valet parking is concentrated in the hands of a few business owners it is good to be able to adapt your product to any challenge.
Now, the Brazilian company will use this experience to bring to market the finest solution for Valet Parking and their goal is to offer this Product beyond Brazil’s borders, first reaching the Canadian, and later the entire North American market. The first customer has just been installed in a 240 stall valet parking site, in Porto Alegre. And after that, Engeltec is ready to reach its full international potential.
Migrating to a new system without turning off
If needed, Engeltec can integrate their solution without even turning off the current system. One of the biggest challenges faced over ten years in business was at a Shopping Mall in Rio de Janeiro with approximately 5,000 spots and a daily turnover of 12,000 cars. A busy mall like Via Parque demands high performance of the parking equipment and it cannot stop, otherwise chaos will ensue.
Implementing Engeltec’s solution happened while customers were coming in and out of the mall. The migration had to be done with the equipment turned on otherwise it wouldn’t work. And, so, after many nights without sleeping, calculating all the moves and risks, they managed to launch a successful integration.
Two operational systems were working in parallel for a period of time. In total, nine entrances and nine exits would lead to eight assisted points of payment and eight automated points of payment. The result was the clients didn’t notice any change in that day and the mall could continue to collect a daily revenue of CAD $45,000.
Via Parque is one of their premium clients and having them in the portfolio has opened the doors to many other big entrepreneurships in Brazil. A mall with this size confirms that Engeltec’ system is robust enough and works seamlessly for clients.
For more information contact: Marcelo Andrade, Managing Director, (647) 624-6620. www.lucalex.ca