DigitalCorner a rencontré Matias Lindroos, fondateur et CEO de ParkMan. ParkMan est une start-up finlandaise spécialisée dans les offres de mobilité urbaine autour du stationnement:
The « internet of things » has been growing for a few years, and is sprawling to almost every industry. Urbanism is one of them: most of the industry experts believe that traffic flow in cities can be made more efficient through infrastructure that is connected to the internet. Parking is one of the biggest problems in most cities, especially the big ones, that causes a lot of inefficiencies in the traffic flow, on top of a waste of time and a nervous breakdown for the brave drivers. Quite a few companies have actually tried to build sensors, that can be installed in the streets to detect available parking spots in real time.
Concretely what kind of services are appearing in this field?
We could say that city parking and traffic will be impacted directly by the emergence of three new technological trends for now :
- Geolocation of parking slots: Quite a few companies are trying to help the car drivers find parking spots in real time. Some companies are relying on physical sensors that are installed in the street like Streetline. The sensors give real-time data to car drivers about the occupancy rates. Other companies like ParkMan or Anagog are relying on crowd-sourced data in order to estimate the availability of parking.
- Mobile payment and digital parking tickets: thanks to smartphone apps cities have already transformed their parking meters. Now everyone can generate parking tickets using apps like PaybyPhone in the USA, UK and France or even ParkMan app. Those apps give the ability to pay the parking without using parking meters, to adjust the time paid per quarter hour and to be warned when the end of the parking time comes near.
- Dedicated parking slots : the emergence of shared cars created closed parking systems. For instance, in Paris Autolib offers to private individuals to park their electric cars and motorcycles on the Autolib network. Like this they can enjoy the Autolib slots network particularly using the Autolib app. In the parking industy, companies like JustPark are trying to create « closed ecosystems » for people who want to rent their parking spots to others, and vice versa.
These trends are developing quickly right now and cities can help the industry gain momentum by being open-minded to new solutions.
Faced with this overview, which are the key trends and consumer expectations about car traffic?
Consumers expect services to be fun, easy, and useful. Private companies such as Uber, Waze, ParkMan, and others are aiming at making services that meet the expected standards. Cities and municipalities are often used to « make their own solutions”, often focusing on smart-cities programs to improve transportation and especially car traffic, in San Fransisco for instance. But compared to public transport development or even electric cars or bike sharing systems, the results are often limited.
Still, many cities try to make their own apps, and they all seem to fail. If municipalities would be more willing to let private companies compete and offer their services as a SaaS-model, then the development would be a lot faster. The standard procedure for cities is to make a public tender, and purchase a « tailor made » software for XX million euros, and then notice after one year that nobody likes it.
Cities and municipalities should be more open-minded to free competition. In the next years, there will be a lot of different private companies offering traffic apps, parking apps etc. Cities could easily let those companies compete, and that way push the prices down for the consumers. Free competition is great, it drives development and innovation.
So the key actors here are not the cities but the consumers?
No matter what the technology is, and no matter what approach is used to make traffic better, it has to be super easy to use. Consumers demand easy-to-use services, and will not make an effort to learn new complicated systems. The main challenge is to make a system that does not make the user-experience bad.
One example of a company that has managed to make the customer-experience fun, is Waze. Waze is a navigation company that does not use physical sensors, but can anyway be classified as an « internet of things »-company. Waze users navigate from point A to point B, and passively (automatically) help each other by contributing with real-time data about traffic flow.
More and more cities are luckily realizing that innovation is needed. A clear example of this can be found in the parking industry. Copenhagen just announced that it will start to actively remove parking meters from the streets – and let people use mobile payments instead.
Are consumers ready to use such services, and how much money are they willing to spend for it?
It is hard to give an exact value for how much a person has to pay for a service like this. When a municipality or city decides to buy a software with taxpayer money, it is always more expensive than when there is free competition. Consumers should always ask for alternatives, and push the cities to allow many traffic apps or parking apps to operate in the city. That way the consumer can choose what service to use, and always pay the right price for the service. If the price becomes too high – the consumer can try another service.
Companies tend to be pretty great at finding out how to make money of their happy users. The monetizing models will change over time as competition becomes rougher. The most innovative companies will survive.
The model of free competition is growing in popularity. The Netherlands are a great example of free competition in the parking payment industry. And hopefully the trend will continue.
The adoption of these new models is determined by the ability of both public and private actors to structure these new services around real added value for consumers uses. Both should always move toward greater simplicity and flexibility for consumers / users.
Tomorrow, considering the progress around the smart car, especially facing the current issues around Google car, we wonder if the future of urban mobility and parking is not exclusively determined by automation and connectivity. Today with parking slots and geolocation, tomorrow with car traffic. These two topics, parking and traffic, are of course related, and synergies should be considered.
About ParkMan :
ParkMan is a fast growing company in the parking industry. Through the ParkMan-platform, parking companies and cities can manage their parking prices, and accept mobile payments easily without any investements in infrastructure. The ParkMan app helps car drivers find an pay parking, and increases the cities parking revenues with up to 15% already the first year.