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An App that helps you find a parking bay

In the Cape Town city centre parking can be quite challenging, often combative. The City outsourced the management of parking and duly removed all those mechanical parking meters. Areas were serviced by parking marshals. This was a mixture of progress in the sense that one did not have to have the appropriate coins to feed the meters. Now one could simply present a note or coin/s and receive change. The marshals handled the payments.

But this was still a problem as the approximate amount still needed to be available. The other big downside is that the marshal was often nowhere to be found or was busy haggling with someone else (somebody trying their luck and not wanting to pay)

Cardless payment was a welcome innovation. SnapScan is quite popular in Cape Town. The first stage was to process the transaction on your mobile and wait till the marshal received confirmation of payment on their little handsets. The marshals were later equipped with smartphones and snapped your license plate and presented a QR code on their device that SnapScan duly scanned and processed the payment. There were still two downsides to this. The marshal would still not be available once you have parked. The second problem was the ability to read a QR code from a smartphone screen. This often required sneaking into corners to minimize reflection so that your payment phone can scan the code.

But what technology has not solved to date is the search for a vacant parking bay. Its often a huge hit and miss exercise and often waste of valuable time. The City had planted sensing devices in bays. These were supposedly used for policing the time limits placed on bays – in a 60min bay, the marshal had to make sure the bay was not occupied longer than the time limit.

Integrated technology unlocked by mobile revolution has made it possible for the City to take a huge stride forward. Along comes ParkFind. This app ties all the elements together and reduces all the impediments outlined above.

So what is the experience. The app was downloaded on an iPhone (its available for Android as well). What perked interest was the fact that the app assisted one in finding a vacant bay. The accuracy of this information is color coded.

ParkFind app displayed on an iPhone with text placed to the left of the image.

There is no need to register in the app as a user to find available parking bays. In a habit of registering most times, and there was a pay for parking option. To pay for parking the required user registration was duly done and a credit card was also recorded. This experience was similar to SnapScan or Zapper. Off we went to the city and used the app to find available parking. Bree Street was the target. Surprisingly the app worked somewhat, although not as anticipated in terms of accuracy.

As Murphy’s law would have it, a marshal was in attendance. After a short conversation it was agreed that payment will be attempted in ParkFind. So that payment process worked seamlessly. Now what – what about the marshal’s role. The next part was sheer magic – the marshal duly whipped out his device and had a ParkFind option on his device. He went through that and boom – his little printer whipped out the receipt which he duly snapped behind the windshield wiper.

Now what has ParkFind achieved: The ability to better find a vacant bay than banking on hope. No need to have cash on hand, and lastly, no need to hang around for the marshal – simply perform payment transaction in ParkFind to pay for the bay, and even receive the parking slip within the app. Also in History tab in the app, there is a record of day, time and amount of the transaction.

ParkFind digital parking slip ticket with parking details and cost

Over the next while we will test this app of its ability to find vacant bays. Very nice indeed.