Hello, Joburg? The 90s called, they want their parking payment machines back

How digital solutions are revolutionising parking in South Africa

By Joshua Raphael, Founder and CEO at Parket

Major South African cities have long harboured dreams of becoming smart cities. In the case of a city such as Johannesburg, this means building an urban environment that is connected, intelligent and safe, as well as creating a sustainable and liveable city amongst others. It also means smart mobility, though these aspirations are thwarted by hugely inefficient parking for most parts of the city.

It’s true; parking is once again becoming a nightmare as parking lots around the city edge closer to pre-pandemic levels. As a result, there are motorists driving up and down – wasting time and fuel – looking for parking while right next to them might be buildings with vacant bays that could be used instead. In addition, a shift by some organisations to full-time hybrid working has seen them cut down on parking spaces with employees taking turns on which day of the week to come into the office. How do they efficiently manage all of this?

This places the focus squarely back on the urgent need to adopt a better way of managing this scarce and precious real estate. Modern Internet of Things (IoT) technologies not only match demand with supply, but do so in a far more cost-effective, real-time and seamless way that brings numerous benefits to landlords, office park managers and retail centres, while also significantly improving the user experience for the motorists by digitising parking.

Afterall, people use mobile apps daily to do almost everything – why not for parking too? Indeed, there is an ongoing transition to the next phase of parking technology that is cashless, offers robust parking management features for operators and makes the sector more sustainable by cutting out tickets. But, then why are we still using paper tickets (how many trees per day is that?) and having to run around to find parking paypoints that actually work?

Fragmentation in parking offerings

A major obstacle for the local sector has been the fragmentation in available parking systems, which poses a serious challenge when it comes to flexibility of operations. Solutions either focus on access control, or short-term parking solutions, or long-term parking solutions, but are not capable of doing it all. Then, there isn’t any real parking management software to speak of and information pulled from such systems are often confined to antiquated spreadsheets that don’t offer much insight.

What the industry needs is a turnkey digital parking solution with real-time management of the full parking ecosystem that can help them effectively solve the growing city parking challenge, especially if it is to meet the demands of both the people who own and/or operate parking as well as the end users – the motorists looking for vacant bays.

Turnkey IoT parking solution

Solutions like Parket can not only meet this demand, but are able to achieve this through the use of mobile applications, cloud-based management dashboards and contactless technology, including automatic licence plate recognition technology. Furthermore, the IoT SIM cards used by the parking machines ensure that there is always direct communication between parking lots and those managing them. It also in effect creates an up-to-date directory that the public can easily access in order to find the nearest (or best) parking for their next trip into the city.

Of course, modern businesses know that customer-centricity is key, and it is no different to Parket’s approach. In the full knowledge that not every user will want to download an app to their mobile device, motorists at a parking lot or retail centre can pay through scanning a QR code, while once-off visitors to a business in an office park can also be sent the QR access code via text or instant messaging for ease of access.

Robust cloud-based management

By accessing a cloud-based dashboard, those managing and operating parking lots (or simply landlords looking to make the most of vacant bays) are able to easily manage their inventory as well as monetise their parking spaces and even have previously empty bays filled in order to become an additional revenue stream. In addition, data collected can be analysed and used to identify usage trends over time in order to enable overselling – afterall, vacant parking lots don’t make money.

In the case of office parks, landlords are able to provide separate dashboards for their tenants, which their tenants can in turn use to manage parking for employees as well as visitor access. This information can then be accessed by the landlord so that they know how much tenants need to be charged for parking. This is all done seamlessly, reducing administration requirements for both landlord and tenant while also getting rid of manual processes that are prone to error.

Increasing revenue, reducing costs

The benefits all add up: as an example, one of Parket’s customers, The Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital (formerly City Park Hospital) doubled its parking revenue within six months, albeing against the backdrop of a rebounding regional economy, and demonstrates how IoT technology can be used to bridge the supply and demand for parking bays, while also generating revenue for customers. Based on its success in Cape Town, Parket has recently made a concerted effort to raise awareness of a better way to park, and manage parking in Johannesburg. This, as well as Johanneburg’s moves towards becoming a smart city is key to the city’s development.

Beyond the increased revenue, it also helps to drastically cut down on costs – not only is legacy parking extremely inefficient, it comes with the exorbitant associated costs, including for ticket issuing and reading machines at the entrances and exits, traditional payment machines for those who want to use cash, as well as more complex machines that cater for those wanting additional payment methods such as by card or QR code. Then, there is the issue of maintenance, which is not cheap either (remember all the broken payment machines? That’s why).

Instead, landlords and parking lot operators turning to a turnkey IoT parking solution can look forward to a platform that cuts capital expenditure by up to a factor of ten, while providing a fully digital, cashless, paperless and contactless interface that draws in motorists because of the convenience and seamless user experience.