Powered by Mobile Jazz, Parkimeter Is Here to Save Your Sanity
Second only to a standstill traffic jam, the frustration of trying to find parking in a congested urban area can turn a normal driver into a maniac. The global (lack of) parking epidemic has been around since we traded in our horses for automobiles and only now do we have the technology, data and resources to attack it with the efficiency of a modern mobile society.
Introducing Parkimeter, a platform for companies whose employees own cars and use car parks in their daily operations. It’s suitable for big companies owning (or not) fleets of cars, as well as for individual owners of a single car. The new application can be especially useful for salespeople, plumbers, repairmen and other mobile professionals as Parkimeter allows drivers to:
- Pre-select parking garages near the user’s destination. The application contains extensive information of the car parks to ensure they meet the user’s needs.
- Cashless payment for parking and data tracking such as mileage and others.
- Savings! The platform emits a single invoice with VAT at the end of each month, avoiding the need to keep individual tickets, which could be lost. Other savings coming in the future.
Fittingly, Barcelona, one the world’s leading Smart Cities, is the launch point of this promising new solution to finding downtown city parking with ease. Parkimeter is a platform accessible by web, iOS and Android applications so users can make their plans on their computer or modify while they’re already on the road. It’s currently available in Barcelona, and soon extending to other major cities in 2015.
The legwork behind building a comprehensive urban parking solution even for just one city is incredibly extensive. In order to meet the demand, not only did we need to build the customer-end iOS and Android applications, but we needed to develop the application in order to be able to mesh flawlessly with hundreds of internal car park management applications. This required a unique API design as well as integrated platform security.
The first thing we realized when diving into the project was the sheer amount of data and technology we would need to incorporate into the solution. In order to provide a simple and seamless user experience, Parkimeter needed to build several integrated environments. First, the platform requires extensive back-office engineering to efficiently store the vast amounts of parking data for the city of Barcelona that can be accessed and updated in real-time.
Since we’re dealing with a diverse group of businesses and professionals that will rely on this software, our customer chose to develop simultaneously two native mobile apps and a web application to meet the needs of Parkimeter users. Our challenge was designing fast and secure communication protocols to connect the different environments.
Parkimeter’s infrastructure is based both within the private LAN networks of the parking lots themselves (each of them offers direct access to a private Wi-Fi network called “Wi-Fi Parkimeter”) and the Parkimeter terminal for the parking, which effectively serves as the cash register. In our test case, we used an Android tablet with a customized software that allows exclusive interaction with the functionality required for the operations in the parking lot.
We then created client-apps for both iOS and Android based on the Parkimeter’s UX design, so users that have compatible devices can access the Parkimeter service, while a Windows Phone application is currently the next step.
The solutions employed for connectivity of iPhone and Android devices don’t require manual set-up of the Wi-Fi connection to operate within the Parkimeter network. We used the most user-friendly approach for technical solutions and user interface design. It is absolutely vital to Parkimeter’s success and the safety of the users that the application is easy and intuitive to use.
Sometimes choosing NOT to employ certain technologies is just as critical as selecting which ones to include. In this case, it was intentionally chosen not to use the data connection available via mobile operators as parking lots often have poor cellular coverage. Using the local Wi-Fi network allows users to work independently of their data plan and mobile coverage.
Other common technologies among mobile devices include Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE and NFC, however we chose Wi-Fi because it’s widely available in all smartphones, and it’s very convenient for the user to set up. We discarded the other options, because they were suitable for either iPhone or Android devices separately, or restricted to high-end devices.
The proprietary Wi-Fi technology is extremely secure, allows for very easy interaction in the personal space of the user’s mobile phone, and is not reliant on 3G coverage, so it’s guaranteed to work every time.
Parkimeter is in full compliance with the standards of the security protocols used in today’s networks. The communication with the server is secured by the “https” protocol and we use tokens for client identification, as well as strong signatures for securing payment confirmation. Although we designed the network protocols ourselves, we worked closely form the very beginning with a cluster of specialized companies involved on the Parkimeter project to ensure that our solutions are friendly, safe and are verified by unbiased experts. In doing so, we’ve taken into account both organizational and technical risks.
If you want learn more about our methodology for Parkimeter, feel free to contact us here!
Want to take Parkimeter for a test drive? You can visit Parkimeter here and ask for an account.