PARKO REVOLUTIONIZES PARKING IN BELGIUM WITH TOUGHPAD FZ-X1
Parking spaces have become a rare commodity in Kortrijk, as in many cities in Belgium. The Kortrijk parking authority, Parko, has found a way of ensuring that the available space is optimally utilized.
Working in cooperation with Tradelec and Panasonic, Parko has developed an innovative mobile platform that runs on the Toughpad FZ-X1, making it the first Belgian parking authority to go completely digital.
Parking spaces have become a rare commodity in Kortrijk, as in many cities in Belgium, and the Kortrijk parking authority, Parko, has found a way of ensuring that the available parking space in the city is optimally utilized. Parko is committed to extending, maintaining, and managing Kortrijk's parking policies and the associated infrastructure. Each and every day, Parko parking enforcement officers go round the city, making sure that parking regulations are adhered to. Since the introduction of a brand new mobile platform at the start of this year, this work is now done entirely digitally.
Pioneer in parking management and policy
For years now, Parko has specialized in parking management and policy. It invests heavily in digitising the parking policies of the city of Kortrijk. One of its key innovations is short-stay parking: "Sensors are located at each parking bay where short-stay parking is permitted," explains Jean-Paul Vandewinckele, Operations Manager at Parko. "When a driver parks their car in a short-stay parking space, the sensors are activated and the timer starts to run. As soon as the maximum parking time of 30 minutes is exceeded, the nearest parking enforcement officer is automatically notified, so that they can respond immediately."
In Belgium, Parko is the first parking authority with an app enabling drivers to see in real time where parking spaces are available in the city. The app then guides drivers to the nearest parking space. "What's more, drivers can pay directly via the app using their smartphones, so they no longer have to look for a pay station," adds Jean-Paul Vandewinckele.
After introducing various innovations in terms of infrastructure and customer experience, Parko decided it would also upgrade the platform used by its parking enforcement officers. With a view to ensuring smoother services and extensively digitizing the various processes, Parko worked together with software and hardware provider Tradelec on developing a completely new software platform.
The aim of this new application was to simplify administrative processes, reduce workload in the field, and enable automatic synchronization with the backoffice system. "Parko's remit was clear: the new application needed to be so straightforward that it could run on a smartphone," explains Daniël Frederickx, Sales Manager at Tradelec. "So an Android OS was an obvious choice for us."
Extending services, while simplifying processes
"One of the key functions of the application is to enable parking enforcement officers to record parking offenses in the field and create the necessary file for collecting taxes," says Jean-Paul Vandewinckele. "If an offense is committed, the parking enforcement officer scans the license plate of the car. All data on the owner is then automatically retrieved from the backoffice. The only thing the officer has to do is fill in a number of data fields and take a photo of the car. The file is then immediately transmitted to the backoffice and after just a few days the person who parked illegally receives a ticket through their mailbox. With this new application, the time taken to create the necessary file is reduced from 5 minutes to just 1 minute!" Another bonus is that if a vehicle has a valid resident's permit, the parking enforcement officer is also automatically notified of this, so they don't issue any unnecessary fines.
In addition to recording fines, the Parko application is also used to generate statistics based on the recorded offenses. "For example, if we observe that an exceptionally high number of offenses is committed in a specific location, we can investigate the underlying cause and see how we can create more parking options," explains Jean-Paul Vandewinckele. In this way, Parko actively works on innovating and optimizing the parking policies and infrastructure in the city of Kortrijk.
Another feature of the new application is that it enables Parko parking enforcement officers to issue municipal (GAS) fines in certain cases. Here too, the created files are transmitted to the backoffice in real time.
To get the best out of the new application, Parko teamed up with Tradelec to look for suitable hardware. They were easily won over by the Toughpad FZ-X1 from Panasonic Computer Product Solutions, particularly because of its powerful processor, long battery life, screen that can be used in the rain and with gloves, and integrated functionalities as a tablet, GPS, and smartphone.
"Thanks to this all-in-one solution, we can be sure parking enforcement officers will always be able to work quickly and easily with the application, without any risk of malfunction or failure," says Daniël Frederickx.
Furthermore, the rugged design of the Toughpad FZ-X1 is perfectly suited to the working environment of the parking enforcement officers. The excellent connectivity via 3G or 4G enables immediate synchronization with the backoffice.
An extensive test phase clinched the deal for Parko. "We purposefully arranged for the test period to run in December. It's one of the busiest periods in the year, so it's an excellent opportunity to test the tablet to the limit," explains Jean-Paul Vandewinckele. "The test went so well, we decided to start equipping parking officers with the FZ-X1 already in January 2015."
Further innovations in the future
Although the new platform has only just been rolled out, Parko is already thinking of further innovations: "An integrated e-ID reader and payment options are currently being explored," announces Jean-Paul Vandewinckele. "These devices would enable our parking officers to issue or renew parking permits in the field, which would save a considerable amount of paperwork. Drivers would be able to pay their fines there and then using an integrated payment terminal. We're committed to keep investing and maintaining our position as an innovator. At the moment, we're focusing on the city of Kortrijk, but you never know what the future will bring!"