Parking and Cloud Hosting: A Technology Whose Time Has Come

Here is an article we wrote for the NPA Parking Magazine’s September edition:

In just a few short years, cloud hosting has radically transformed how we lead our everyday lives. Cloud hosting allows us to remotely access our songs, pictures, and documents – even change the temperature of your house! Meanwhile, smartphones and tablets can run powerful apps thanks to cloud computing.

On a broader level, cloud hosting has completely changed the way a number of industries do business, including retail, financial services, manufacturing, tourism, and automotive. Among other things, cloud hosting provides companies with a higher global audience reach; the ability to run more smoothly since data can be synced to multiple devices; and better tools to safeguard valuable data, all while making it more readily available. Specifically, cloud computing allows companies to become more efficient, responsive, and cost-effective.

One industry that has yet to wholly adopt cloud hosting is parking. But that is starting to change. Industry leaders are becoming increasingly aware of how much the technology is revolutionizing the way parking systems are managed, while users are becoming mindful of the way it streamlines the whole parking process through mobile payments, validation opportunities and event reservation capabilities.

Specifically, cloud computing now gives parking operators multiple advantages which help their operations become more efficient, responsive, and cost-effective. Among these advantages, two stand out which will strongly change the course for the parking industry as we become compatible with today’s realities:

Connectivity and accessibility

In a nutshell, cloud hosting technologies provide the ability for parking operators to respond more quickly and effectively to market forces and customer demand. With access to real-time analytics that can be accessed anywhere, parking operators can gain more control over parking rates, as well as better manage supply-and-demand issues.

Operators and administrators will have instant access to information regarding their parkers, such as whether they are repeat users, what times of the day they typically park and where specifically they are parking. Furthermore, with ties into social media and integrated validation systems, merchants can also tap into their customer base with targeted one-to-one marketing.

These real-time analytics will also mean an improvement in enforcement techniques, as parking enforcement officers will possess the technology to speed up the process of checking vehicles and spaces. In many cases, real-time accessibility has even proven to yield more sustainable parking solutions: in the case of multi-space meters, having the ability to easily monitor the validity of parking transactions has allowed parking providers the opportunity to ditch the process of printing reports from machines and instead pull a web link for the same report. Overall, it means more organized and efficient parking systems for towns and communities.

Diminished costs and greater flexibility

The total cost of software ownership is dramatically decreased since the days of buying, licensing, and maintaining  ‘install and own’ systems are going away. Instead, companies are creating or moving towards ‘pay-as-you-go’ software as a service (SaaS) platforms.

Municipalities are starting realize the shift as well supported by changes reflected in request for proposal (RFP) requirements which traditionally have accompanied larger capital outlays. For example, Cloud-based hosting systems like mobile payment services can offer a cost-effective alternative to popular, often expensive replacements and upgrades for traditional coin-operated meters.

Municipalities can now achieve many of the same benefits of adding electronic payment without having to stretch the budget through services like mobile payment. So, who pays for these services?

Pass-through or Not To Pass-through

Many software companies in our industry have priced products and services such that part or all of the ongoing service fees can be passed through to the parking customer. This adds an extra layer of flexibility in cash and budget-constrained parking and transportation departments around the country. Additionally, this can be helpful to those municipalities looking to navigate more swiftly through often cumbersome procurement processes.

Those municipalities that can afford to subsidize these types of services should consider doing so, as utilization is directly impacted by cost of service. We all know that the price elasticity of demand for parking is such that consumers are very responsive to price increases or decreases in most municipal markets. All prices equal, data proves that there is still a subset of the population that is resistant to changes in processes through technology. However, that subset is not nearly as large as has been discussed time after time in these industry publications. For the most part, municipalities have not given these types of technologies the opportunity to thrive since they are often introduced with a price penalty to the consumer.



A creative solution

More and more municipalities are finding creative ways to manage their operations as well as let motorists pay for parking. Cloud hosting solutions are the most creative of all—while offering reliability, cost-effectiveness, and instant accessibility. Simply put, it’s a technology that represents a breakthrough for parking operators and administrators, as well as users themselves.