Parking on campus a snap with Carleton professor's app

School testing system that lets drivers pay, extend parking times with cellphone
3160049.bin.jpegA Carleton University professor has developed a system to allow people to pay for parking at campus lots with a simple text message from their cellphone.

Called iParked.ca, the system reads the text messages coming in from drivers and catalogues their payment and licence-plate information. Drivers parking at Carleton may never have to approach a meter again.

It also sends notifications via text message 10 minutes before the paid parking time has expired, allowing drivers to top up via another text message.

"This works on any phone, you don't need an iPhone or something like it," said Dwight Deugo, a professor of computer science at the university.

"There is no need to leave important meetings, lunch dates or classes to fill the parking meter. Users can extend their parking time from wherever they happen to be."

The system, which people can sign up for at iParked.ca, will be tested in one of Carleton's parking lots over the summer. If it proves effective, the university could choose to roll it out to cover other lots for the coming school year.

While it's considered a relatively new idea in North America -- Carleton claims the text-based system is a Canadian first -- both text-based and phone-based payment systems have been in use throughout Europe and Asia for years. Using a phone-based system, drivers first have to actually make a phone call and then can use text.

iParked.ca is competing with pay-by-phone companies in Canada such as Verrus Mobile Technologies Inc., which provides service for downtown Vancouver, and New Parking Inc., in Saskatoon. A handful of other companies are rolling out automated parking services, which allow people to pay parking fees with their cellular phones, in various North American cities to tap into the global parking industry, which is estimated to be worth $100 billion annually.

Deugo said he thought of the parking payment system while getting caught in foul weather and beginning to wonder why Ottawa wasn't using technology that would allow him to pay for parking without getting drenched.

"I was trying to park in the pouring rain and I got fed up," he said. "I just thought, 'Why can't we do this?'"

He spent the next year developing the iParked system and is now ready to begin rolling it out. Deugo said the system is completely self-funded and that it makes money by keeping a small commission fee from each parking transaction it helps to conduct. iParked.ca is part of Deugo's Ottawa software development company Espirity Inc.

The system requires a user to set up an account, which includes a valid credit card, at iParked.ca. The user text-messages parking needs to a phone number posted in the parking lot with specific information. For example, people wanting to park at the university would simply text "CAR" for Carleton, "P2" to designate the lot they are in and then the time they plan to park for; for example, "45M" would indicate 45 minutes. After that, the system will bill the parking amount to the credit card associated with the phone number and a bill will be e-mailed to the user.

People wanting more time can simply text another message, indicate a longer parking period and see their parking time extended automatically.
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iParked.ca
Website
iparked.ca/
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