PARKINGReview: Life in the urban lab – Kush Parikh, PayByPhone

October 16, 2015


Technologically savvy city-dweller s are now organising their lives through apps, smartphones and smart watches. This virtual world extends to how they book and pay for parking, says Kush Parikh



The launch of Google’s Sidewalk Labs in June this year shows that there’s an increasing focus by technology developers to provide better solutions for urban living. Of course, urban mobility is just one of the broader challenges, as the concept of a connected city has been a focus for regions across the globe for some time now. We live in a fast-paced world that is rapidly turning to innovation in more traditional industries to solve issues, plus engage with an increasingly connected community. And at the heart of this fast-­paced, technologically advanced world, is our use of mobiles.

The reason why mobile services in general have been adopted so successfully by consumers is because they offer easy and convenient solutions to everyday transactions and tasks. Couple that with one of the most strenuous experiences in urban living -finding a car park and then the change to pay for it – and you can see why putting the two together makes sense.

Through the use of a smart phone, it is now easier and faster to pay for parking. Often seen as a barrier to entry for high street and neighbourhood business areas, mobile technology has simplified the process by making both on-street and off-street parking fast and more convenient, benefitting visitors and helping to maintain these areas as urban destinations.

PayBy Phone enables drivers to pay for their parking in the most stress-free way possible, with just a few quick taps of the app, it’s all done and they are free to get on with their day.

Digital natives now look to technology to both save time and simplify life’s daily hassles. Thanks to apps like PayByPhone, customers can now stay for coffee and dessert, or carry on shopping, knowing that they’ll receive a reminder text before the meter time expires and be able to add more time (within the allowable restrictions) without having to dash back to feed the meter, helping local businesses in the area, and thus the UK economy.

A good example of a city making the most of mobile apps for the public is Boston, in the USA, which is leading the way in mobile innovation by working with PayByPhone to offer digital payment options for residents and visitors alike. This means more convenience for Bostonians and less infrastructure and costs to manage.

Paris is another example of a city going mobile for parking, with the launch of a personalised parking programme which automatically calculates preferred parking rates based on specific locations across the city. The benefit to drivers is that their licence plates are automatically recognised, generating accurate rates in real-time. This virtually eliminates the need to dispute fraudulent or invalid charges and rates. It also means abusers, such as drivers parking in disabled parking zones when they are not eligible, will be caught out and penalised accordingly.

On top of that, Geneva is rolling out cashless mobile parking payments city-wide. With the convenience of mobile payments made available for drivers, the city is hoping to encourage more people to park in the city, which helps support local businesses.

The mobile parking revelation doesn’t stop there; it is also happening in a lot of councils and cities across the UK too. In fact, PayByPhone is supporting a virtual permit service in Southwark, one of London’s busiest inner boroughs, which enables residents who live in the applicable parking zones the convenient option of purchasing and activating permits via the web, SMS or phone. The online system simplifies the process for residents as well as saving Southwark Council time and money.

These are all examples of how mobile parking payments are taking innovation to the next level to disrupt a very traditional industry – making urban mobility better for city dwellers.

Ultimately, with consumers over more comfortable with technology, it’s time for councils to be more ambitious with their transition plans to digital. This shift is already having a massive impact on urban mobility and how local authorities operate and the services they provide to the public. The use of technology – mobile in particular – has enabled a move towards a self-service society, whereby human intervention is becoming almost invisible. Importantly, it has also helped councils save substantially.  One of the ways local authorities can improve and personalise services is through the use of mobile applications.

Kush Parikh is president of PayByPhone Global