Parking is an invaluable asset for developers and building owners. Well-designed and implemented parking resources increase any property’s value, while poorly conceived parking can undermine the same property. Fortunately for owners and developers, the parking industry is in the midst of a technology renaissance that is making parking more user-friendly and manageable than ever before.
Recent years have seen the introduction of an abundance of new parking tools. For instance, advanced parking access and revenue control systems (PARCS)—the gates that control entry and egress from a parking facility—can securely accept virtually any type of payment and can work with Bluetooth, RFID and other data exchange technologies.
A more recent innovation is parking guidance technology, which uses sensors to monitor spaces and inform drivers where open parking spaces can be found. Even technologies like license plate recognition (LPR) and automatic vehicle identification (AVI) have become prominent parking management tools, even though they weren’t initially developed for the parking industry.
The latest innovation in parking technology is frictionless parking, which combines two or more parking tools into a single suite that permits drivers to enter and exit parking facilities without having to pull a ticket or stop on the way out to pay. With frictionless parking, the driver registers with the parking facility in advance, creating an account with his vehicle information (such as license plate number) and payment information.
When a driver arrives at the facility, LPR or AVI technology recognizes the vehicle, associates it with the account and allows the driver to enter. When it’s time to leave, the vehicle identification technology again recognizes the vehicle, charges the account the appropriate amount of money (or the appropriate monthly permit) and opens the gate so the driver can leave. Frictionless parking is the culmination of many decades of technological development and the combination of the most useful parking technologies.
Putting together a parking suite
It’s easy to see why these new parking technologies would appeal to building or complex owners and developers. They making the parking experience much more user-friendly, which provides a business development advantage when seeking tenants. One of the longest-standing truisms of the parking industry is that because tenants, visitors and others often enter buildings and complexes via parking facilities, those facilities essentially serve as de-facto lobbies.
Parking facilities that boast one or more of these cutting-edge technologies are much more attractive to tenants and visitors. Fifty years ago, tenants were drawn to marble foyers and attractive architecture; today they want pleasant and convenient parking for their tenants and visitors.
Yet, as attractive as these technologies are to owners and developers, 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 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, owners and developers face two challenges: choosing the right equipment, and getting their choices to work together.
Automatic program integration
The answer doesn’t come from within—from the tools that are being combined. It comes from without—an automatic program integration (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 through the use of 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 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.
API allows owners and developers to connect any variety of parking technologies, regardless of who the manufacturer is, to build the perfect parking suite. 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 AVI can also grow with the addition of new parking tools. Actually, 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 add LPR, parking reservations technology and 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 by automatic program integration 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 typically 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
Building and complex owners and developers shouldn’t hesitate to purchase different parking technologies out of the fear that they may not work well together. Automatic Program Integration can serve as a universal data hub that will connect any parking technologies, combining them into one powerful suite.
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