The Future of The Parking Meter App

We wrote an article recently about 6 companies working on “smart parking” and it looks like smart parking technology will eventually displace a majority of the jobs for parking enforcement officers in developed markets. While smart parking technology is addressing “parking enforcement”, it is also addressing “parking payment methods”. On streets all over the world you will find the humble parking meter in various stages of technological development. The world’s first parking meter was patented in 1928 and actually was designed to be powered by the battery of the car which occupied the parking space. Fast forward to today and you have solar powered parking meters that take every form of payment possible. Here’s what a modern day parking meter looks like:Smart Parking Meter

Before we even start getting into the various technologies being developed for parking payments, we need to look to the future and imagine what the optimal scenario would be for parking. The below is what we would see as an optimal scenario for parking payments.

Paying for parking is something that I never have to worry about. When I pull up to any parking space, the amount I will pay displays on my car’s onboard display and if I don’t agree with the price, I don’t park there. My parking payments accrue over time and are deducted from my bank account or billed to my credit card on a monthly basis. The communication that takes place for these transactions to occur is between my car, the parking spot I am parked in, and “the cloud”. There is no need at all to involve my smartphone. Why do I need a smartphone to park my car when all I really should need is just the car? There is a “parking spot finder” application that I can use on my in-car computer display if I need help finding a spot else I can just park in spots as I choose and the amounts are automatically billed. There is no such thing as a parking meter and few people remember a time when we used meters to pay parking fees.

That’s the scenario we see as being the easiest to use for the driver because that’s the direction we’re heading in. So where are we at now? We’re at a place where we have a great deal of old parking meter infrastructure that is being either replaced by new meters such as the one we showed you in this article or supplemented by hardware add-ons to accept additional forms of payment as an example. The reality is that having to get out of your car and interact with a parking meter is oftentimes frustrating and a waste of time. The payment method should be much more seamless.

The idea of paying with your smartphone is now where parking payment methods seem to be heading. “Parking meter apps” are popping up all over now with no barrier to entry for additional competitors to enter the game. As of now, it seems that all these “parking meter app” companies have sliced up the available market into geographical regions or territories which they will try to further expand within. Expect competition in this space to be fierce. We’ll also need to see some serious consolidation in this space so parking enforcement officers don’t have to check 15 different vendors’ databases when checking to see if you’ve paid for your parking space yet.

Having to fumble with your smart phone while navigating into a parking space isn’t the optimal way to pay for your parking. The only thing you should need when parking your car is the car itself. Ultimately the car must communicate with the parking spot in order for the system to work best. Odds are that your parking habits are fairly consistent and consequently the expense is consistent making this outgoing cash flow very similar to that of a utility bill. You don’t scrutinize your utility bill to see what you spent every day of the month, do you? As long as the total amount is consistent then you aren’t concerned. The future of the parking meter app is that it goes away or is just used occasionally to check your charges. Paying for parking just becomes another utility bill that arrives alongside your car payment.

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