The parking industry has become extraordinarily technology-centric in recent years. Advanced parking guidance technology can be found in many parkades and when added in with PARCS equipment, (that can securely accept a litany of payment types and work with Bluetooth, BLE, and other data exchange technologies) and technologies like license plate recognition (LPR) and automatic vehicle identification (AVI), parkades have become highly sophisticated operations that are taking advantage of a host of technologies.
But parkades, often, do not function in a vacuum, and rather are a part of a larger parking system that includes surface lots and on-street parking availability. So, it would make sense that this availability should be factored into an overall ‘global’ availability and guidance system that accounts for parking beyond just the parkade. Not only does doing so provide a more complete picture of the real-time parking availability status of a given area, it also creates a more complete data set that can be captured and analyzed by advanced software suites that have that capability, creating a more valuable data set that can be used in new and effective ways. Things like traffic management, or event parking and variable pricing, can be driven by this global data approach that enables that parking data to be much more influential to an overall transportation management ecosystem.
This is especially true in university and corporate campus environments. Such operations frequently encompass a variety of parking scenarios, but parkades, due to their controlled environment and the tendency to develop technologies specifically for them, become the focal points for the concentration of technologies that make parking more friendly
However, this functionality does not need to only be limited to these structures. As technology has evolved, the expectation of its interoperability has increased as well. And the faculties that allow these devices and systems to work together, without having to be intertwined on a code level, have evolved as well. Plus, there are now wireless space availability technologies and multi-space video analytics systems that can work well for lots and spaces that don’t have the support infrastructure that a parkade might. This opens the opportunity to collect data from places that parking managers have not traditionally been able to. Still, the question remains, for many operators, of whether all this technology can work well together. And if so, how?
Putting It All Together
It’s easy to see why these new parking technologies would appeal to parking owners and organizations of all types. They make the parking experience user-friendly, and at a time when improving the parking experience should be central to the mission of all parking operators and owners, properly deployed technology is the number one tool for making parking friendly.
At the same time, these tools also collect valuable data about who is parking in a given facility, when they use the parking resources, and how long they stay. This is invaluable information for owners and operators as they make their long- and short-term plans for their parking resources. And the greater the scope of this collected data, the more powerful its potential.
Yet, as mentioned, it’s not always easy to know which technologies work well together. There are no one-stop-shops for parking technology because different providers do different things well. The best access and revenue control developers don’t necessarily make parking guidance equipment, the best parking guidance companies don’t make PARCS or LPR equipment, and the best LPR providers don’t make PARCS or guidance equipment. So, organizations and parking owners face two challenges: choosing the right equipment and getting their choices to work together and finding a centralized way to manage it all.
Application Programming Interface
The beginning of the solution can be found in the form of an application programing interface (API). Typically cloud-based, a parking technology API is essentially a data hub that connects various parking technologies and gets them to work together. The best systems are Open IP platforms, which allow the owner/developer’s software team or consultants to customize the platform to meet their unique needs.
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 using a secure 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 experts (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.
APIs allow owners and developers to connect any variety of parking technologies, regardless of who the manufacturer is, to build the perfect parking suite to suit the needs of the installation. Owners and developers can purchase the best individual tools to meet their needs and use the API to connect them into an effective suite.
The API approach is scalable too. As parking needs evolve, the API can accommodate the addition of new parking tools. Most owners and developers plan on future growth. They typically start off with modest technology purchases, often starting with PARCS and parking guidance equipment. Then as their properties mature or as technology evolves, they often add LPR, parking reservations technology, and/or other tools. With the maturation of the smart car segment just around the corner, and the advent of the self-driving vehicle age in sight, owners and developers should always plan for their parking technology suites to grow to keep up with these and other inevitable changes.
Another type of evolution made possible through API is the addition of enforcement to the parking technology suite. Owners often discover that as their properties grow, they need to enforce their parking rules. This manifests itself in the expansion of parking guidance tools to handle enforcement (using the sensors to monitor whether spaces are being used appropriately and by authorized parkers) or by mobile LPR vehicles that traverse parking lanes monitoring license plates to assure that everyone who is parked in the lot or facility is supposed to be there. API permits the addition of these services to an existing parking suite, and the process is simple and easy to manage.
Simple Solution to A Complex Problem
Parking organizations and building owners and developers shouldn’t hesitate to purchase different parking technologies out of the fear that they may not work well together. APIs can serve as a universal data hub that will connect any parking technologies, combining them into one powerful suite. When this approach is combined with an advanced software suite that is able to manage everything from VMS (variable message signs), to PARCs and vehicle access systems, to occupancy sensors and not just collect and analyze their data but also manage them and provide maintenance and uptime status, operators can gain a powerful system that becomes what they are all really looking for: a true solution.
Gorm Tuxen is President/CEO of IPsens, LLC, a leading provider of cloud-based parking guidance, data exchange, information management, and maintenance monitoring solutions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.