Any professional athlete would warn you to never neglect your basics. You can have your eye on hitting the best home runs in the world, but if you don’t practice making contact with the ball, that lofty goal can’t happen. The same concept should apply to running an efficient parking asset. An eye for innovation is fantastic, but it needs to be tempered with a strong foundation. Once you have that down, you can achieve any parking facility’s primary purpose–getting your customers in and out with ease.
When was the last time you conducted an audit of your facility’s components? Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or new to the industry, it’s important to have a strong sense of what makes your asset tick. We’re here to help you on that journey. Below is a guide on the basic components of any parking facility from our experience at Flash. Compare it with the system you currently use to ensure you’re maintaining revenue in the most efficient way possible.
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What Are Parking Asset Components?
Anything that facilitates the entry, processing, or exit of your customers is considered a component. They range from the technology that accepts people into the facility to the systems that process payments while inside. Modern components have led to a wide variety of options to choose from. Many parking facilities still use outdated components that, while still functional, get in the way of new sources of revenue. Modern technology leads to smart parking. That means lower expenses and higher innovation.
How you admit a person into your asset can make a world of difference. From the customer’s perspective, it can save them a headache. Modern access options focus on radio-frequency identification (RFID) or camera technology to mark each vehicle. They differ in speed and cost of installation.
Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI)
AVI is considered a primary choice for supporting the bulk of parking customers—monthly parkers. It uses RFID technology to detect tags placed inside customer vehicles when they enter. Upon recognizing these tags, gates are lifted and the parker can proceed without interacting with any kiosk. This is a standard, consistently-reliable method for making parking seamless.
It can even be configured to integrate with existing highway toll tags to avoid needing more than one in your car. The typical drawback to AVI is that it’s not available to transient or occasional parkers, because they don’t have a tag. However, it still represents one of the best, most cost-effective solutions for regular customers.
License Plate Recognition (LPR)
LPR technology is similar to AVI in that it requires no kiosk interaction from the customer. It differs because it doesn’t need a separate tag in the customer’s car to operate. LPR utilizes camera technology to capture license plates and track them through entry and exit. Although more expensive, this technology can also be used to capture transient parkers, unlike AVI. Another benefit is LPR’s ability to track vehicles and obtain lost ticket fees more easily. That’s why it’s a popular choice in long-term facilities such as airport parking lots.
At Flash, our answer to evolving LPR technology is FlashVision. It’s an LPR technology that contains every piece of hardware above ground, as opposed to many other LPR systems. Other systems will often need loops placed below the cameras, underneath the concrete. This creates a feedback loop between the camera and ground module that works in tandem with each other to register vehicles. FlashVision avoids this loop, saving on installation costs and repair time.
Bluetooth Beacon Technology
While LPR and AVI remain the two main access methods, operators can choose to add Bluetooth options. This is a popular feature for operators who want to use a proprietary app. Bluetooth integrations are often paired with existing AVI systems as a way to account for transient parking. It works by allowing parkers to download an app that connects to an operator's systems and activates entry once connected.
Our FlashBeacon is an example of this system—allowing operators to expand their customer base without revamping their entire structure. It also allows for touchless entry, even for transient parkers.
The ratio of hardware versus software in parking assets is changing as more technology goes digital. However, gates are essential pieces of the system that do more to control facility traffic than any other piece of equipment. Unfortunately, that dependency also comes with the risk of high failure rates. That’s why you have to choose carefully when going with a supplier. Do your due diligence when exploring by weighing options and using references. Parking gates should be certified for a certain amount of cycles and easy to repair.
We’re a proud partner of Magnetic. They feature some of the fastest vend times as a leader in the industry. Other factors that led to our partnership were the ability to utilize arm lengths up to 20 feet, energy efficient Magnetic High-Torque Motors (MHTM), and easy access for repairs or adjustments. There’s a lot of deliberation that goes into choosing a gate. Analyze your space and choose the best option for your business.
As an operator, you have a big choice to make regarding how to install kiosks. They can come in many sizes and configurations. A few options include ticketing machines at gates, wall-mounted, pay-on-foot stations, and more. The setup you choose will depend on your space’s layout and how future-ready you’re willing to become.
The latest kiosk technologies embrace the Internet of Things (IoT) and can be connected to each other through the cloud. This allows integrations with e-parking and mobile payments. It also enables kiosks to update remotely and be customized within a short period, such as with Flash’s Smart Stations.
Our Smart Stations are more than kiosks. They can adapt to almost any space and can be configured for different applications. Within minutes, an add-on can be set up from the cloud to enable cash collection services or integration with an e-parking app. When contactless payments were needed at the drop of a hat at the onset of the pandemic, our kiosks were updated to utilize FlashVision, enabling people to pay via a simple wave of the hand.
Your kiosks are your front-line workers with your customers. They should reflect you as a business by the type of newer technologies you’re willing to provide.
Software is the brain and nervous system of your operation. It connects to each piece of hardware and gathers essential information. You need a system that can govern all of the different events happening at any point, while collecting that data to review.
Enter cloud computing. In the past, it was difficult to create a network for parking technology because of the limitations. Today, software is hosted virtually. That means that each piece of hardware communicates with the other. The benefit of a cloud-based network includes easy repairs, fast upgrades, and the ability to add on new services quickly.
Aside from payments and daily operations, data is the most valuable prize coming from modern parking systems. FlashOS, FlashParking’s software, was built to provide operators with levels of data they hadn’t seen before. This enables new revenue streams.
Payment technology ranges from digital to traditional ticketing and cash systems. The best thing operators can do today is to include multiple options. Out of everything, mobile-first and contactless technology are framing the future of parking payments.
The pandemic has all but concretized this as a standard. Customers have many ways to travel and find parking, and they’ll use their favorite app to complete the transaction. A more regimented travel schedule has shown people that they don’t have to grab a ticket and pay at a booth. They can pay without having to speak to anyone in the parking garage. It’s in every operator's best interest to adopt digital payment technology to their systems, while leaving room for cash and traditional transactions.
"The opportunity to provide a seamless, contactless experience for customers already lies in their pockets. All you have to do is invest and enable these features."
Even Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology can be used. Apple and Google users can simply tap their phones on a terminal to complete a transaction. The opportunity to provide a seamless, contactless experience for customers already lies in their pockets. All you have to do is invest and enable these features.
Audit Your Basic Components
After you’ve identified the key components of your assets, you can begin to audit them. It’s essential to go through each piece and determine its performance and what’s missing. We’ve also created a short “training” guide on how to approach analyzing some of these components. Once you’ve done this audit, congratulations—you’ve done one of the hardest parts! (It’s also something many operators skip. Best not to be a member of that select group.)
When you know exactly how your components are running, you’ll be able to scale and make adjustments that make your customers happy. After all, that’s what we’re all in this business to do.
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