Palmerston North firm teams up with Sharp

Palmerston North firm Monkeyroom has teamed up with Japanese electronics giant Sharp to make solar-powered sensors for snapping car park infringers. 
The firms believe the technology has global potential.

Monkeyroom's sensors are designed to monitor traffic in real-time including car park occupancy, and relay the data over the web so customers can view the status of monitored areas and manage parking enforcement staff.

Marketing manager Shareena Sandbrook said five major international companies in the parking and pay-and-display market had expressed interest in the sensors, which were designed to be ultra-durable.

"Parking is an issue globally and there's nothing around in the world that does what this system will do. There are 4500 car parks in Palmerston North alone and that's just a small city."

The company would initially target councils and local authorities, looking to improve on parking enforcement and gather data on parking bay occupancy, but could also be used by commercial parking building operators and for monitoring road congestion and traffic flows.

"In a parking building you often have cars driving around not knowing where the next available park is. We're fine-tuning our system to be able to direct cars to parks."

The next generation of sensors would be able to work when covered in snow, she said.

The company had spent about $1 million developing the technology.

Monkeyroom director Don Sandbrook said Sharp developed the small, high performance solar panels to power cellphones and was on the hunt for other uses for them.

The panels were a good fit for Monkeyroom's sensors because they could operate in very low light.

"We needed to build a low-profile sensor that was incredibly small, and the panel needed to be more efficient than batteries for constantly monitoring traffic flow or the presence of a vehicle in a parking bay."

Sharp Electronics Singapore managing director Shigeto Okawa said the potential of the sensors and other applications designed around them was "far-reaching", and Sharp would work with Monkeyroom to develop the technology.

Mr Sandbrook said Sharp's involvement would provide major marketing muscle.

"They are a top brand and a reputable company and that helps put people at ease about the quality and reliability of the solar panels," he said.

Mr Sandbrook also developed Spidertracks a satellite tracking system used in light aircraft, marine and vehicle fleets around the world. Monkeyroom has 13 staff. 
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