New Zealand Tech Company Finds Launching Pad in Boerne
A parking garage attendant collecting cash in a glass booth is about as twentieth century as you can get. Boerne-based Parking Sense USA is trying to change that.
Parking Sense uses technology to automate the modern parking garage. Chief Executive Officer Jake Bezzant brought the technology to Texas from New Zealand three years ago.
“Our founder, Paul Collins, is a self-made serial entrepreneur,” Bezzant explained in a distinctly British accent. “He developed in-ground sensors for street parking spaces when he saw drivers piggybacking off previous parkers at ‘lollipop’ parking meters. His system zeroed out the time when a car left.”
After taking the meter technology company public on the Australian Securities Exchange, Collins turned to improving the driver experience in parking garages, or “carparks” as they’re known down under.
Parking Sense’s infrared sensors monitor spaces in a garage. Bluetooth technology connects overhead LED lights and digital signs to lead parkers to available spaces. A mobile phone application can also guide users to spaces, collect payments and allow users to reserve spaces.
“Parking is the first and last thing you do when you go somewhere,” stated Larry Eade, Vice President of Operations. “Without a guidance system, people can drive around for thirty minutes looking for a spot. They’re emitting pollution, and they’re unhappy before they even start shopping.”
Parking Sense, he says, puts customers in a much better mindset because they are virtually escorted to an available space without the search and frustration.
Consumers aren’t the only group that benefits from the technology. According to Bezzant, garage owners can better maximize their spaces, landlords can better satisfy their tenants and employers can better retain their employees.
“People don’t stay in jobs nearly as long as they once did,” Bezzant explained. “The employee experience is critical.”
With eighteen employees of its own, Parking Sense has installed its guidance systems in nearly ninety Los Angeles Metro parking facilities. The company is also gaining ground up the west coast and in Dallas, Denver and Atlanta. It has a proposal into San Antonio International Airport.
“If a business traveler pays $600 for an airline ticket, he or she will likely pay a few extra bucks to reserve a parking space up close. We can accommodate that.”
The company is targeting real estate companies, hospitals, universities, airports and municipalities. It recently completed projects at CBRE’s Dallas Galleria and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, DC.
“The beauty of our solution is that it’s very simple,” said Eade. “If you have electrical power, it works. It is not reliant on the WIFI infrastructure of our competitors. WIFI is great in your home. In parking garages it is extremely unreliable.”
Bezzant believes Parking Sense’s technology sets it apart. The company is on a “land grab” to get into as many garages as possible and start collecting data.
“Accuracy is critical when you start linking payment systems, driverless cars, electric car chargers, etc.” Bezzant stated. “Putting numbers on a sign is not enough. Garage owners want the peace of mind that they are buying a future-proof solution.”
According to Eade, building owners want to know what times of day people came, when they left and how long they stayed.
“We give them information on their customers and citizens. Instead of anecdotal guesses, authorities have verifiable facts on where to devote resources, build hospitals, bus stations, etc.”
Bezzant concurred, “Big data, smart cities, the Internet of things...our technology contributes to all this.”
The two New Zealand natives credit their homeland’s history for its innovation incubation. Still underneath the umbrella of the British commonwealth, New Zealand has the landmass of England but less than ten per cent of its population.
“Great companies have come out of New Zealand,” explained Bezzant. “We have one of the highest percentages of sole proprietors in the world, so people are naturally trying to get better. They don’t just sit back and plod along.”
Eade pointed to the remote island nation’s isolation as a driver of its innovation.
“You can’t just go next door and get what you need like you can in Europe or America,” he said. “We don’t buy it, we build it. We like to say we can use #8 fencing wire to fix almost anything. It’s our duct tape.”
According to Eade, global companies test out their latest technology in New Zealand because errors affect a fewer number of users. Being a high-tech testing ground benefits the information technology industry in New Zealand.
“We get to play with the new stuff first,” Eade said.
Playing with the new stuff has paved a way for Parking Sense to reform some old stuff, namely legacy parking structures.
“We have some competitors, but no one else offers a complete solution, and they can’t because of patents we have in place,” stated Bezzant. “We want to become the dominant provider of this technology in the U.S.”