Don’t worry. Be appy.
I’m sure Sheffield City Council Parking Services would never be so crass as to deliberately send parking wardens to a Church event at half nine on a Thursday evening knowing there might be a few quid in it for them, so let’s assume it was a simple coincidence I got a £35 fine for having half a car on double yellows that night.
I of course immediately forgave the rather sheepish parking wardens, and invited them to the big event in June next year, www.GrahamTour.org.uk, after all, the trespass was my own, I knew I was breaking a law, I just didn’t expect there to be consequences. Or wardens. And ever ready to turn it for good, I decided to use it for inspiration for this weeks article.
I remember, back in the early days of the startup scene, a rather amusing company called APPY Parking being formed. They had a mission to ‘Fix parking’, and basically put together an app that found empty parking bays. I ran an interview with them, I recall, maybe a couple of times, and visited their offices, like most startups they were bootstrapped, and in my opinion, pursuing a strangely niche area. Car parking isn’t one of those sectors to get the pulse racing, immersion in the ‘parking world’ isn’t going to get most people very wet.
Still, takes all sorts.
Anyway, six years later, I thought to have a wander into the world of parking to see if it’s as dry as one would expect. Spoiler alert, it is. The most controversial thing to emerge is an app that pays people a tenner for doing the job of a parking warden. Simply take photos of offending parking and upload it. Win a tenner for each successful fine actioned. Now this might sound horrible and dystopian, and maybe it is, although a look through Parking Professional Magazine soon convinces me the sector is having a full on tech revolution, complete with ‘Women In Parking’ action group. Don’t worry, it’s American.
Where was I? Ah yes, smart cities and parking. Synchronisation of humans and machines to enable cars to be parked more nicely. And to be fair, the iTicket app that pays £10 per fine isn’t for everyone to install and police the streets with, it’s for small businesses to protect their car parks and parking bays without them having to employ an enforcement officer. Once registered, the company even sends out compliant signage to be displayed, it’s actually a good idea and decent system. See, you can’t believe everything you read in the mainstream press.
Anyways, Appyparking, now valued at £50M, having raised £8.5M a few months ago, started out having to manually compile the location of parking bays across London, and ultimately digitise all that disconnected information into one, accessible, and useful, centralised point. Now, nearly six years later, they intend the app to be part of the ‘smart cities’ infrastructure, offering services to local authorities and businesses, a ‘kerbside management platform’ no less. They’ve created the sector from nothing really, just an idea, an intention, imagination, and scraps of disconnected information from London Boroughs. Now they provide contractual services to big businesses and local councils, saving time, money, and positioning themselves as smart infrastructure, not just Appyparking, now, AppyWay. They’ve done well, I’m ‘appy for them, so much so that I installed their app on my phone, will I ever use it, maybe, although I find the instinct driven game of ‘find a parking space’ quite amusing sometimes, one of modern life’s little entertainments. Maybe if the app gave me encouragement, or positive rewards, for compliant parking, yes, that would help. A little more carrot, that’s what’s needed in the parking World. Maybe it would’ve saved me the £35 I’m about to give to Sheffield City Council, as purchase of forgiveness of my trespass. Cheap at half the price.