This interview is part of our series “The Rise of the Chief Parking Data Officer” profiling parking industry innovators with the vision, strategy, and leadership to create connectivity within their organizations using data. Want to be featured? Send Sarah an email.
Yo, Andrew LaMothe!
Thanks for joining me today for a deep chat about parking data.
Also, thanks for patiently enduring the three minutes it took me to realize that if my headphones are connected to my computer, that’s where the sound is gonna come from, even if they aren’t in my ears.
Technology can be complicated.
That’s why we’re chatting today, actually! Let’s break down, from your perspective as the Chief Parking Data Officer at Cleverciti, the impact that data and technology have on the parking industry.
First, what’s your role at Cleverciti?
Word. I’m Vice President of Sales for North America and I head up Marketing for the company globally.
How long have you been in the parking game?
10 years, I think. Maybe 11.
My foray into parking started with access technology. I was recruited to a little company in Los Angeles called Sentry Control Systems after having worked at a big company in the electronic security industry managing national accounts.
Sentry needed someone to scale up this new tech. I had experience with breaking into new markets and building relationships with enterprise partners. That’s the skill-set that Sentry needed to kick their growth strategy into high gear.
Sounds like those skills would be super transferable, yeah.
For sure. So, for context, SKIDATA acquired a majority interest in Sentry in 2015 and Sentry became the preferred partner for Genetec on the West Coast.
(Author’s note: Genetec develops open-platform SaaS, software, and hardware solutions for physical security and public safety – right in Andrew’s wheelhouse!).
SKIDATA was their main bread and butter. I did that for a minute until Sentry and Genetec severed their relationship.
What came next? You stayed in parking, of course!
Of course! Fortuitously, PayByPhone was looking for a sales leader for the West Coast. Starting there is what made me realize that parking is a “thing”, this whole world of new and different technologies and applications.
After my first IPMI conference I was like, “OK, this is something really big” and I was hooked, just like that. I knew it was what I wanted to do.
The technology is really impressive, right? I felt the same way when I entered the industry in 2017 with SpotHero. Straight up blew me away.
The tech was awesome then, and it is becoming more and more awesome every day. But transparently it was the people at PayByPhone, and the people who I met when I was working there, who made the industry really sticky for me. The people are just great.
I’ve worked with a few companies since and have worn a lot of different hats. I feel like in other industries, that would mean losing touch with people who I worked with previously. But in parking, those relationships haven’t changed regardless of where I’m at or what I’m doing.
So, I’ve got the “usual suspects”, if you will, and we all hang out at conferences and keep in touch and continue to endorse each other, share ideas, make introductions. It’s wonderful.
According to your website, Cleverciti is “smart parking for smart cities”. You’re in the business of effective curb management.
Can you tell us a bit about how you’re viewing the state of curb management right now, and what the opportunities are?
I think curb management still needs to be further defined. There are a lot of terrific papers out there, written by people much smarter than me, that I’d recommend to anyone in parking.
We need to standardize the concepts and the data. All of us, cities and universities and private tech companies, need to speak the same language.
The waters are murky.
Because the ecosystem is complex, right? It’s not just parking – it’s emerging mobility, urban infrastructure, smart city technology, municipal legislation. It’s very much an evolving space between parking and all of these other elements.
Absolutely. Today, when we talk about curb management, we’re not talking about just meters or just mobile payments. We’re talking about data.
Yeah, exactly. And all of this is pretty much new!
To manage the curb means complete management of all types of parking spaces. That includes the loading zones, ADA spaces, and EV spaces, and also spaces for regular transient vehicles, bikes, scooters, anything that touches the curb.
It’s like we’re simultaneously zooming out and zooming in. “Out” in that the landscape is so much bigger now, and “in” in the sense that we’re looking at the tech and integrations on a cellular level.
Right, and you have to pay attention to all of that data. Or at least to the data that means something, and figuring that out is another challenge altogether.
What type of data do you pay attention to at Cleverciti?
I heard this recently, I dunno who I heard it from: data is useless unless it helps people.
“1110100101” is only 1’s and 0’s unless it actually moves people and helps improve someone’s life and somehow makes the world better.
For us right now, the most important data is that data that indicates a decrease in vehicle miles traveled.
The reason why that’s important is because we are able to help people spend less time in their cars, which means we’re reducing emissions and making a positive impact on the community and our world at large.
I appreciate how you think globally. It’s a thoughtful perspective.
Data contextualization is important. I want to put it into a community perspective, a global perspective.
With a sales and marketing background, I’ve developed an ear for how people find it most helpful to hear things and how they process information.
I want to help them understand why curb management is so important, down to the personal level.
Can you tell me more about the outcomes of maintaining that point of view? How does that influence how you process and use data?
Where Cleverciti is at right now is that we are excelling in our ability to understand the parking environment holistically. We understand on-street how the curb operates, and through integrations, we understand the garage. It’s a comprehensive point of view.
You not only see but understand that whole ecosystem, and you can make sense of it for other people.
Exactly. We add layers of translation to that data to make it apply to someone’s environment. Because when they understand the data, they can make good decisions with it.
What do some of these good decisions look like?
So, let’s say you’re a city official or council member. Anecdotally, you’re hearing that there isn’t enough parking downtown.
You’re asking yourself, is that true? Are there really not enough parking spaces? Oftentimes it’s not. Oftentimes the issue is that people don’t know where or how to find parking.
Instead of spending $30,000 to convert more real estate into parking spaces, you can save that money by making a lighter-weight investment in understanding where the parking is and adding tech that guides people to it.
100%, that tracks. I’ve lived in a couple of big cities where people love to complain about how hard it is to park downtown. It’s, like, a thing we all bond over.
But the issue isn’t always that the parking doesn’t exist. It’s there, but when you’re circling in a congested city center, it’s hard to find.
We can also take it to the next level – remember, you’re a councilperson, so you care about local businesses excelling, right?
So, how about we tell people how long you can park there based on time of day, day of week, level of demand? Now you can increase equity and turnover for the right people so these businesses thrive.
That’s a really positive result for any community.
Or here’s another example: how about we increase compliance at the curb so our curb space isn’t being abused?
You see delivery trucks pulled over, vehicles parked in emergency areas, dedicated zones being violated, in general. This is problematic for how people experience the city, not to mention being a safety hazard.
That’s where Cleverciti comes in. Now you can tie all of these disparate things together to better local and global outcomes.
Totes. Like, Sarah wants to drive to her favorite cheesesteak place in South Philly but doesn’t feel confident about finding parking there.
Cleverciti’s data can let her know that if she turns left at the next intersection, she can take her pick of five spaces and doesn’t need to worry.
Previously there was no way for her to know that.
And then we’ve got a code red “no cheesesteak” situation on our hands.
We’re not explicit about it in our marketing, but yeah, Cleverciti also eliminates the risk of catastrophic “no cheesesteak” situations for our Philly partners.
Let’s talk a bit more about demand-based pricing, which you mentioned earlier, in the context of increasing turnover in high-traffic economic areas to maximize the amount of people who can access these businesses.
And maximize revenue from people who park there, too.
When you understand your occupancy and the utilization of your assets, AKA parking spaces, and you’ve got that data at the ready, you can deliver it in real time, say, to a mobile payment provider or parking meter provider.
You’re now able to exercise dynamic pricing. Because our data can now inform a rate engine that adjusts based on demand.
So, rather than being like “we’re always going to charge $X in the city center” with different rates set for outside of that area, you charge based on demand patterns?
Yeah. And though it’s not really dynamic pricing to change rates every month or quarter, that’s still responding to occupancy. It’s a better process than drawing lines around which areas are “busiest” for parking.
Some areas could be “busier”, or become so, if there were methods in place for informing drivers about, and directing them to, available parking, and charging them to optimize space turnover and increase transactions.
Is this brand new for Cleverciti?
It is. We are working with a company right now to facilitate this rate engine. I can’t go into it right now, but within a year, we’ll have a tangible example of leading cities being able to use it and seeing results.
Looking forward to hearing about it! We’ll need to release a sequel to this interview when the results start to emerge.
I’d be down. Data and integrations are something near and dear to my heart, I could talk about this stuff for ages. Cleverciti has been dating the OMF…
…dating the who, now?
C’mon, girl! I’m about to blow your mind here.
The OMF is the “Open Mobility Foundation”. Go ahead and Google.
What is this “Google” you speak of?
It’s this thing that’s a lot like Yahoo.
Never heard of it. But my little elves tell me that it’s a non-profit created when a bunch of municipalities across the country banded together because they recognized the need for open-source standards and tools for scalable mobility for cities.
You mentioned this idea earlier, when you were talking about how education on these concepts is needed in order to achieve progress.
Yeah, this is something that I really believe in. I’m not just talking about the terms used, though. I’m also talking about how the data itself is presented.
OMF and Cleverciti were dating for some time but recently we got married – we became members! The reason why is because there has been a groundswell in demand for standards for curb data specifically.
There’s a pressing need to create a common language between private tech companies and cities and universities.
Why do you think that is?
Because every company has its own API. Rather than dealing with a bunch of individual APIs and having to establish multiple complicated integrations, we can all speak a common language and communicate more efficiently.
You mentioned that dynamic, demand-based pricing is on deck for Cleverciti. What else ya got to share?
We’ve talked about data, integrations, standards, and how people experience cities… Cleverciti is sitting at the intersection of all this.
Cleverciti is telling a municipality how long cars have been parked on the street, and they can “speak” back to us via API integrations, which are easier to establish because of data standardization in the curb management space.
In our mind, and in the minds of many leading cities, this is how we’re gonna move forward with integrations. And I think it’ll enable this new rate engine based on occupancy and utilization.
This idea of standardization and centralization feels very “of the moment”.
We’ll allow Cleverciti to talk to XYZ company and them to talk to us in a way that gets rid of the hiccups involved in broken or unreliable APIs. When well-meaning companies don’t speak the same language, it’s the cities that end up having to manage those integrations.
How does Cleverciti endeavor to be the best partner to cities, operators, and other technology and equipment vendors?
I’ve mentioned that I think the curb management moniker requires clarification and is a bit murky overall.
There are companies that “by definition“ do curb management, but we’re going about it in a different way. So, we’re really upfront transparent about what it is we bring to the table.
I think that a good partnership looks like a good friendship. It’s about transparency, alignment on goals, and honesty. You have to be honest when things get a little out of whack.
Word. A shared value system and open communication is crucial.
I’m always frank.
Thanks for your time today, Frank.
Har har. You’re welcome.
Can our readers connect with you on LinkedIn?
Absolutely. Add me here. Always down to swap ideas on curb management, parking data, and of the exciting changes parking is undergoing right now.