The 2024 edition features an interview with Garth Boyst, our Chief Technology Officer and engineering veteran with 20+ years of diverse industry experience.
In this interview, Garth shares on overview of Ocra’s momentum in 2023 and how our company building tech that anticipates the changing challenges and requirements of parking operators, parking asset owners, and parking technology companies.
Read the full interview below or starting on page 9 here:
Perfecting Parking Data: Meet Ocra
We talked to Garth Boyst, the Chief Technology Officer and head of engineering at Ocra.
Ocra’s platform and sophisticated custom integrations with demand channels, such as aggregators, break down data silos and centralize rate and inventory management for parking operators.
Here’s what they were up to in 2023.
What were the highlights of the year 2023? What are the changes and upgrades you made to your platform and why?
2023 was a remarkable year of breakthroughs and innovation for Ocra. We saw significant growth in improving the engineering of our products.
I’m not just referring to major advancements in our offerings but also in terms of further developing our understanding, as the people who build products, of what technologies and integrations are needed to future-proof our partners’ businesses and give them an edge going forward.
A major highlight this year was introducing sophisticated event management with rate tiering. This enables parking operators to yield rates as inventory increases or decreases.
Event parking reservations are at record highs which represents an immense revenue opportunity but also the possibility of large-scale operational problems.
For example – parking for a huge event like a Taylor Swift concert may sell fifteen months in advance. This creates problems for both the operator and the demand channel. We help ensure that optimized rates and tiered pricing are configured during the period in which customers are booking.
We also embraced the future of parking with the integration of drive-up digital payments (like scan-to-pay and tap-to-pay).
Additionally, we launched our Partner API, which surfaces transaction data to technology companies that need access to the data in real-time and can leverage a one-to-many connection via Ocra.
One use case is with customer service platforms we work with: Parker Technology and Umojo.
By pulling data from Ocra’s connected network, they can quickly diagnose and solve on-site issues for customers. These developments are not just incremental improvements – they represent a transformative leap in our platform’s capabilities.
Your platform centralizes essential data for parking operators. What data points do you standardize and surface in your platform?
If you’re in ParkWhiz’s seller console, for example, the fields look very different from what’s in SpotHero’s front end. Those discrepancies apply to the back end, too.
In order for Ocra to let operators manage rates and inventory across multiple aggregators in one place, we need to standardize those data points, which is no small task.
A few key data points that Ocra helps operators visualize are rates across channels, commissions owed to channels, advanced booking window, and customer reservation patterns.
Have there been any interesting changes in user behavior or requirements that influence how you continue to enhance and upgrade your platform?
User behavior and requirements have significantly influenced the ongoing enhancements to our platform.
One of the key areas we’ve focused on is mobile optimization, which is handy for parking operators who spend a lot of time on the ground in facilities.
Another area where user feedback has driven our development is permissioning. We’ve introduced more granular control for individuals in specific roles that give them direct management capabilities over aspects they previously depended on aggregator account representatives for.
This change is especially notable in managing events, where operators often need external help to set up and modify rates and inventory. In fact, this year we did a full overhaul of our events feature which was primarily driven by user behavior.
What we heard from the operators we work with is that they would frequently identify events that were being missed by the channels, indicating a gap in our system.
By addressing this, we’ve not only solved a critical problem but also enhanced our platform’s overall functionality and responsiveness to user needs.
What are your plans for your platform in 2024? Any updates on deck that you’d be willing to share with the public?
2024 is going to be a big year for Ocra. Our engineering roadmap is ambitious but attainable due the exceptional talent we have on our team.
Here’s a peek into what’s up next: we’ll be adding multiple new integration partners, advanced yield management and functionality and automations, and more advanced reporting and analytics. We will also be integrating with more direct channels which include the operator’s own technology.
How big of an impact do you think viewing data in a holistic way can have on the success and revenue of any parking business?
I think it’s critical for an engineering team to think about the business outcomes of the features and integrations we’re building.
In my years leading teams like this one at Ocra, I’ve learned the value of building a strong back and forth with the revenue side of the business so we can stay aligned on what we’re building as well as why, who it’s for, and what it does for our partners.
We’re a high-growth start-up and lean team and this helps us prioritize and stay focused, getting the most impactful stuff out the door first.
I’d say that Ocra optimizes and maximizes the experience that operators have with using demand channels such as aggregators.
In many cases, these channels are a significant revenue opportunity for operators. But especially in the instances when operators are using multiple channels, the management tasks can be time-consuming and difficult.
We all know that the best thing that an operator can do is actively manage the demand channels. Interact with your rates and inventory. Make adjustments based on demand.
But the reality is that time and resourcing constraints exist. Not to mention that the data from all of these systems is fully siloed; none of them talk to each other. We want operators to be able to get the most they possibly can out of these channels without disrupting their operating rhythm or creating extra work.
When you are pricing competitively at any given moment, you can use these channels (which spend millions of dollars a year on marketing) to surface your locations to customers. Marketing without a million dollar budget – that’s huge.
Also huge: the ability to be able to quickly react to changes in demand because transaction information for all of the channels you’re using is in one dashboard.
I want to call out our Universal Inventory solution, which is something revolutionary. Neither operators nor channels will hit revenue ceilings when all of the operator’s inventory is in one big “bucket” that the channels can all race to sell.
Oversolds aren’t an issue either, because once a spot sells through one channel, Ocra automatically removes it from the others. Overbooking results in a poor customer experience that can prevent that customer from returning.
That’s a bad business outcome that we help our operator partners avoid.
As one of the go-to names in the industry when it comes to parking data, are there any interesting observations or trends you’ve noticed from parking operators that you can share with us?
There’s lots of interesting stuff going on right now, for sure. I’ll share a couple of things that I see from where I’m sitting.
First, operators making investments in analysts and generally using parking data and KPIs to make better pricing decisions. Over the course of 2023, there’s been a general movement towards more on-point rates; we’ve observed this firsthand.
There are also many more digital payment solutions entering the space. My speculation is that some businesses are realizing that in their case it makes more economic sense to install a combination of technologies for digital payments, LPR, and enforcement than it does to install and maintain a gate.
There’s also been an emphasis on branding and marketing to connect with customers. We’re a B2B business that doesn’t market to the consumer but operators have a strong B2C component, and they’re definitely leveraging channels and tactics here on a more advanced level.