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Industry Leader Panel Recap: Parking Has Gone Digital. Have You?

This article is based on insights from a presentation exclusive to the Middle Atlantic Parking Association conference in November 2013: Parking Has Gone Digital. Have You?

Sarah Becherer, our VP of Marketing, joined industry luminaries Todd Tucker, former operator and now President @ Parking Logix, & Andrew Sachs, owner/operator and President of Gateway Parking Systems, to discuss the digital transformation of parking and its far-reaching impact on owners, operators, tech vendors, and customers.

Find some highlight below and download the presentation here.

And don’t miss Andrew’s brisket story at the end of the article!

The Topic: The Necessity of Connectivity

We’ve all observed that there has been an influx of new tech for access, reservations, redemption, occupancy, customer service, rate management, business intelligence, and more flooding the parking industry over the past 5–10 years.

This solutions now available, and the operational challenges that go along with implementing them, are posing questions like:

  • What data do I actually need to run my business?
  • How can I use data to market to customers?
  • Who’s responsible for integrations and data standardization?

These are tough q’s, and there’re many schools of thought around them.

The deluge of insights out there can be tough to parse. It’s unsurprising that we haven’t reached consensus on how to move forward as an industry.

But at the same time, thinking critically about these questions is important, as is challenging a deadly mentality that has been too all pervasive in parking for decades now:

“I’m doing fine. Why change anything now?”

If we all agree on anything, it’s that parking is lagging in comparison to adjacent industries that are leveraging data and integrated technologies already.

So the question, ultimately, becomes this:

“How do we speed up our evolution? What’s going to get us there?”

The Context: Scale of Technology Adoption

Every organization – and every person! – in any given room falls somewhere on the scale of early market or mainstream market adoption.

There’s nothing “better” or “worse” about any given position.

For example, consider Laggards and the Late Majority:

A hefty dose of skepticism around adopting new tech is healthy.

It’s judicious and prudent to conduct careful analysis of the potentially negative impact on operations and revenue in the event that the vendor folds or the tech doesn’t deliver on its promise.

And in the case of the Innovators and Early Adopters:

Making big bets on early tech may be motivated by going to market faster, seizing a competitive advantage, or elevating brand positioning (appearing as a leader in the space).

The tradeoff is a higher level of risk, one that they need to be in the fiscal position to take.

The chasm indicated in one that tech vendors are accountable for helping the market clear.

How will they do it?

By 1) proving out the power and flexibility of their solutions, and 2) earning reputation over time as a partner who is able and willing to build and maintain all integrations as needed.

Technologies that hastens this change all have a few things in common:

  • Fit seamlessly into the operator’s stack
  • Translate disparate data points into the same language
  • Are “phygital”, blending on-site experiences with digital ones
  • Save time and reduce overhead

Strategic partnerships between these vendors and operators/asset owners will lead to enhanced offerings and new solutions that benefit customers hitting the market faster.

Presentation Highlights

  • Integration is becoming increasingly crucial.

    This means seamlessly connecting various parking systems, software, and hardware to “talk to one another” and work in harmony.
  • Making disconnected tech “speak the same language” involves implementing standardized protocols and APIs that enable different systems to exchange information and work cohesively.

    This interoperability enhances operational efficiency and enables data sharing.
  • This poses the question “who is responsible for building and maintaining complex, custom integrations between systems?”.

    Our panelists agreed that in the context of an operator/owner partnering with a vendor, the onus is on the tech vendor to do so.
  • Modern parking services require integrations that link digital and physical experiences.

    One example is online booking and payment platforms with on-site infrastructure that allow a customer to reserve a parking spot online, and then seamlessly enter the facility using a mobile app or/& license plate recognition.
  • This convergence of online and on-site experiences simplifies the process for customers and optimizes revenue collection for parking operators.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) is playing a significant role in parking technology. IoT devices like sensors, cameras, and occupancy detectors are used to monitor parking spaces and gather data.
  • When data on transactions and occupancy is plugged into business intelligence tools, operators can offer services like real-time parking availability information, predictive analytics, and accurate revenue forecasting for any given period.
  • Vertically integrated (or “tech enabled”) operators are making big bets on building consolidated hardware and software stacks, whether with their own developers or through strategic acquisitions.

    There are many situations in which it is advantageous to take this approach.
  • But building tech is expensive, and it may benefit the operator to partner with a vendor in order to save dollars and go to market faster (ex. marketing spaces through aggregators that spend millions of dollars on customer acquisition).

    This is an assessment that each operator should make based on their financial position.

The Brisket Story

In regard to breaking free from the deadly “I do fine” mindset, Andrew Sachs shares a tale that represents the importance of questioning the status quo.

Watching his wife prepare brisket for dinner one night, he noticed that she had sliced off a slab from both ends and threw them in the trash before putting the brisket into the pot.

He was curious about this peculiar behavior and asked her, “Why would you cut the ends off before cooking the brisket?”.

In response, his wife shrugged; her mother had always cut the ends off, so that’s how she does it, too.

Next time he saw his mother in law, he asked her the same thing – why cut the ends off of the brisket before placing it in the pot?

His mother paused for a moment. “Well,” she said, “I suppose that’s how I saw my mother do it.”

At a family gathering a few months later, he saw his wife’s grandmother and approached her with the same question. As it turns out, it all boiled down to a practical reason:

“My pot wasn’t big enough.”

Moral of the story? The next time you catch yourself in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” loop, pause and ponder:

Why am I doing things this way? What lies between today’s routine and the untapped potential?

Sure, routines are lifelines, especially when overwhelmed, overworked, and overstimulated. Yet disrupting the norm can be a game-changer.

Tech partners are here to ease the transition for operators, building tech and integrations that supercharge decision-making without throwing the operator’s rhythm out the window.

Questions? Thoughts? Brisket recipes passed down through generations? Reach out to Sarah at sarah@getocra.com to continue the convo or connect with the other panelists.


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