Shopping Centre
The app that opens barriers
Published:  29 September, 2014

Smartphone apps are emerging as an alternative to ANPR in personalising the parking experience

Technological advances have changed the parking world in recent years with developments in ANPR and payment systems allowing for higher flexibility and convenience and a better parking experience. And with smartphones now commonplace, it is apps and the related software that is pushing the boundaries in parking technology.    

BlueID is a piece of software developed by Munich-based Baimos Technologies that allows users to open parking barriers using their mobile phone, enabling the car park operator to move towards monthly account-based billing and allowing customers to pre-book parking, let staff and VIPs into separate parking zones and to monitor dwell time.  

Florian Schiebl, chief sales officer at Baimos, explains: “There are two software modules, one integrated in the app and the other into the barrier. The user’s app automatically notifies him that he is approaching a BlueID powered barrier and displays an ‘open’ button which he presses while driving towards it, opening it within a second. It’s done via a local connection based on NFC so it doesn’t rely on internet connectivity and there’s a complex authorisation access system running in the background for security purposes.”

Users who have pre-booked can also combine the app with their navigation system which will guide them towards their parking space. And at the end of their shopping trip when they want to leave, they don’t have to press the button on their phone to open the barrier to let them out - the system recognises they are approaching, does a barrier check and opens it automatically. 

“From our point of view, it’s the most convenient way because the driver doesn’t have to stop his car, doesn’t have to open his window and doesn’t have to lean out to reach for a ticket because it’s done in a wider range of a few metres,” says Schiebl. “The beauty of the software is that it capitalises on the feature set of the smartphone, and our vision is that utilising smartphones in the parking process makes for the best user experience.”

Baimos doesn’t want to get in the way of the user experience so shopping centres can integrate the BlueID software into their own apps. Shoppers can pre-book a car parking space via the app, the request is accepted by the parking provider and a digital ticket is sent to the app where it is stored. 

When someone who has pre-booked enters the car park, a notification pops up telling the operator that that member has arrived and again when they leave, collecting data ready for analysis to monitor car park performance.

According to Schiebl, the advantage over ANPR is that it’s a user-centric system: “The member can drive any car because authentication and billing is linked to an individual’s phone and not referred back to the car they drive. ANPR is different because it reads the vehicle’s number plate.” 

“Every user and barrier has a unique ID,” he adds, “and in that sense you can decide with maximum flexibility which users enter the VIP zone or separate parking zones for staff, for example. And if a member of staff parks in the customer zone nearest the shops, the system will flag it up to management so they can reiterate that staff should only park in the designated area.” 

Schiebl believes the parking industry will see a push towards account-based billing: “Today, the parking market isn’t used to subscription-based payment but we are seeing a huge shift in the market towards it whereby billing is account-based and paid for monthly,” he says. “When a user registers with his account details, it allows the system to build a list of preferences for a more personalised service. BlueID can direct people to free parking before they’ve even arrived in the area, helping to prevent traffic, and it can steer people to an available space or zone in a shopping centre nearest the particular shops they want to visit. It can be completely automated.” 

Schiebl says the system is expanding into public car parks including those at shopping centres and airports and that Pango is implementing it in the UK, US and Mediterranean Europe. 

But there are obstacles preventing the growth of the technology. Baimos relies on barrier manufacturers to work with them but Schiebl says many aren’t yet ready to accept external software like BlueID being integrated into their barriers. 

“Shopping centre car parks often have barriers from two of more different manufacturers with two or more back-end systems,” he says. “In order to install app-based parking the manufacturers have to accept the external software that operates the barrier and they’re not yet ready. To make it happen, and to push innovation, all players need to work together. App-based parking is the future and with a little more co-ordination, together we can provide more features and more flexibility both to the user and the parking provider.”