Parking as a service

APT Skidata launches new pay-monthly subscription model

For many shopping centres and retail destinations parking is an important revenue generator. Operating a car park, however, brings with it a collection of challenges, from selecting and acquiring the right system through to managing operating costs and ongoing costs of service and maintenance. It also requires engaging with multiple parties to facilitate different payment methods, defining strategies for enforcement, and for building in additional services to keep the car park competitive.

The first hurdle is the initial capital expenditure required to procure the equipment to control and collect parking revenues. This can often be beyond reach especially for small destinations, and even more so following the business disruption and also the change in consumer behaviours as a result of the pandemic. Hoping to change that is parking solution provider APT Skidata.

APT Skidata is launching a new parking concept ‘Parking-as-a-Service’ which aims to gives public sector bodies and private sector organisations a new means of delivering what it calls a ‘hassle-free’ parking experience on a monthly subscription. The new system will see APT Skidata take responsibility for installing and maintaining the parking equipment and the operator pays an agreed monthly fee over five-years.  

“Subscription models  in other walks of life are very familiar, whether it is for a mobile phone contract or TV, music streaming or gaming,” Steve Murphy, managing director of APT Skidata explains. “They are also finding their way into new industries such as automotive, where vehicle manufacturers are offering subscription-based car ownership. And now we can apply the same principles to the parking space.”

The new subscription-based parking model has been designed with the aim of giving car park owners and operators the opportunity of having high quality, reliable parking technology delivered as a service, delivering all the value of a premium parking solution but at a fraction of the cost. This, Murphy says, gives owners occupiers the chance to have the best performing technologies in car parks where they might have ordinarily opted for a cheaper alternative.

A better answer to old problem

Smaller car parks commonly end up with a barrierless, pay and display solution because decisions are made which prioritise affordability rather than suitability. They are often linked to Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology, which involves payment via vehicle registration, but in many cases Murphy says the solution is not fit for purpose.

“The principal disadvantages centre around the customer experience,” he explains. “Customers can inadvertently miss the signage and use the car park thinking it is free only to receive a penalty charge and never use the car park again. Conversely the threat of enforcement can push people to limit the duration of their stay, and curtail their shopping trips, which in turn leads to a potential revenue loss.”

The future of car parks to prevent negative customer experiences could be a system like Parking-as-a-Service: a barrier-based solution which combines technology and service, where the responsibility for installing and maintaining the parking equipment rests entirely with the manufacturer and for which the operator pays an agreed, monthly fee for a fixed period

“The model instantly removes the principal hurdle to take-up – capital expenditure – as no upfront payment is required,” Murphy points out. “A fixed, monthly subscription cost is better for cashflow, and provides total visibility of ongoing cost and return on investment. All of the service, maintenance and software upgrades are included in the cost, which means there are no unpleasant surprises.”

At a practical level, Parking-as-a-Solution is a cashless solution, removing the need for cash collection, and removing the security headache of having cash on site which impacts insurance premiums and eliminates the likelihood of fraud.

With the Parking-as-a-Service solution, the operator is given a choice of entry system, exit system, and payment system; they can choose between gates and barriers of different sizes and the type of ANPR camera mount best suited to their requirements. Packages can also include intercom as part of a portfolio of bundled hardware, alongside a maintenance package and transaction bundles. Once the technology is chosen, the customer is connected to the parking solution provider’s cloud parking platform.

Murphy gives an example of how a car par would look with the new system: “Using our single entry/exit car park as an example, the customer journey is a simple one. On arrival, they drive up to the barrier, the ANPR system records their license plate, and the barrier opens.

“On exit, they again drive up to the barrier, the ANPR system recognises their license plate and a cost is displayed on the exit terminal screen. The driver taps their card on the contactless icon, payment is acknowledged and the barrier opens for them to depart. Payments are collected through the payment service provider into the acquiring bank.”

Beyond parking

APT Skidata’s pay-monthly has some obvious advantages. For one, operators can build on their current car park usage, potentially working with entertainment venues in town centres, or patient and visitor reservations in hospitals, by adding a reservations platform to guarantee the customer a parking space when they arrive.

It also gives operators the ability to offer discounts on parking through validations provided in nearby offices, shops, restaurants, cinemas and theatres. “Discounted parking always appeals, and a key advantage to Parking-as-a-Service will be the opportunity to deliver the same levels of sophistication that the larger car parks are able to offer, but at a fraction of the price,” says Murphy. He hopes that Parking-as-a-Service will turn a premium parking solution into a much more viable option for smaller car parks up and down the country.

“With a subscription-based model, the industry has the opportunity to transform the way owners and operators of car parks see, experience, and procure parking systems – enabling them to realise new revenue streams, and provide a better customer experience without taking on a challenge and a cost that is beyond their comfort zone,” he adds. “What is required is a little imagination, and the willingness to embrace a new way of thinking.”

This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.

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