Lately in the KP household we’ve been marveling even more than usual at the extent to which technology has beneficially transformed our lives. Yesterday we had a macabre, earthy sharing of stories, while visiting with friends and meeting their new daughter, about 19th-century doctors not realizing a woman was pregnant with twins, or thinking she was pregnant only to find out 10 months later that the woman had a bouncing baby (benign) tumor. The miracle of ultrasound.
Here’s another installment, one that is less dramatic and evocative but is still cool nonetheless: wireless parking meter networks with pay-by-phone capabilities. This Information Week article describes the technology and its benefits for parkers and for municipalities:
PhotoViolationMeter, or PVM, calls drivers to warn them that the meter is running out of time and provides a pay-by-phone option to refill the meter. When drivers first park, they can pay with debit or credit cards, or spare change.
“We designed the meter so that you’re not slapped with a $30 fine simply because you ran out of change,” Fred Mitschele, president and CEO of Photo Violation Technologies, said in a statement. “The No-Fine feature offers you the option of automatically paying in timed increments with your credit card so you avoid the risk of a ticket. Or you can take advantage of the Grace Period option. The city gives you a grace period by pre-programming a certain amount of time that you can pay for extra minutes before it turns into a parking violation. No other meter can do that.”
PVM runs on a wireless network and also offers free Internet hotspots for drivers who carry their laptops and other electronic devices in their cars. Hotspots are also open to emergency responders who may need additional options for communications in large-scale situations.
The benefits for local governments go beyond emergencies, however.
The meters also photograph license plates, providing evidence for prosecution when cars do violate parking laws. The meters’ sensors reset each time a car parks in the corresponding space, decreasing the likelihood cities will lose money on scofflaws who are not caught by traffic police.
How cool is that? Once you start thinking about parking meters as a distributed communications network, think about the potential value … this idea has my mind reeling, excitedly! The article does not mention the incremental cost of this system, but if you could have consumers pay for hotspot access in 10-minute intervals, etc., I bet you could defray quite a bit of the cost and have a pretty short payback period on the investment.