From 20th of October, the citizens of Decatur are having an unique opportunity to pay for parking by using their mobile phones, while the parking lot is being monitored by detectors inside the blacktop. The parking meter receives information about the payment and will then activate just as if coins would be used.
The solution makes controlling very easy. The idea of blacktop detectors is to monitor the status of every parking space during enforcement hours and alert the parking lot manager about possible violations.
At first stage there are about 100 parking spaces in the center of Decatur incorporated into the Estonian-US joint innovation project, says Arho Anttila, the Managing Director of NOW! Innovations. He adds: “If Europeans are OK with paying for parking via SMS, then people from US prefer using automated voice-services. Because for an average American parking via SMS is psychological unacceptable and difficult.”
For NOW! Innovations, the digital permitting company from Tallinn, Decatur is the first commercial step in grand US market. The company has targeted US (especially New York and New Jersey) and Latin America (Ecuador and Brazil) for a while already, but have so far made progress mainly in Europe. Thanks to NOW! mobile parking is available, for example, in Antwerp (Belgium), Kiev (Ukraine) and Skopje (Macedonia).
Besides Decatur, Estonian m-parking solutions are also being tested in Albany – the capital of The State of New York. Anttila believes this could give the company certain advantage when the city plans to go ahead with commercializing the solution in 2009.
NOW! is aspired to become “a big player” in US market, where mobile parking is doing its first steps. “Well-working mobile parking solution sells by itself. We are like a benign cancer – when we put things to work in one city, it will eventually spread into other cities as well,” claims Anttila, who believes mobile parking is an effective and cost-efficient solution for problems caused by urbanizing.
Today you can park by using your mobile phone one way or the other in about 30 US cities, the only metropolitan being Miami. Estonia was the first country in the world where mobile parking was introduced back in 2000 by EMT.
NOW! Innovations is part of Estonian Helmes group, founded by entrepreneur Jaan Pillesaar.