Fifteen years ago, the phrase “Google it” wasn’t a part of our meager vernacular. Neither was the word “smartphone”, nor the now popular phrase, “there’s an app for that”. But as technology has evolved, so have we. And while it wasn’t originally a walk in the park to hop on a clunky PC, dial up to the World Wide Web, and pull up a search engine, the once daunting task became easier with practice. So, though it might not yet seem natural to search for parking by pulling out your phone or computer (or tablet, or iPod), the world of parking is evolving, and it’s about damn time we hit the gas and get up to speed.
Evolution of an Industry
But before we get too chummy with the tech-side of parking, let us first take a brief step back in time to look at the evolution of this mammoth industry. Parking came on the scene soon after the advent of the automobile. By the mid 30’s, and even more so by the 50’s, parking became a hot topic out of necessity. Since most of the lives of our precious vehicles were (and still are) spent parked, the issue of where to house them took, quite literally, a front seat. Early garages were all covered, as the cars of mid-twentieth century couldn’t handle the elements. As cars themselves evolved, however, the options for where to park them evolved as well. Common questions to ponder became surface lot vs. garage, and then elevator vs. ramp.
By the 50’s, the automobile industry was booming, and with the car becoming not only the staple, but also the emblem of the American family, parking these shiny new toys was the talk of the town. Architects became invested, and before long cities were working hard to meet the parking demand. Cities also focused on how strategically placed garages would bring business to the surrounding areas; urban planning at its finest. So, while parking did evolve a good amount in the early days, the industry has only just gotten its feet wet incorporating more innovative twenty-first century technologies.
Creating and Filling a Demand
Looking at other types of twenty-first century technologies, as I’m writing this at a local Starbucks, someone came up and asked if I was working on a Macbook Air. Why yes, indeed I was. And while I gabbed on about how much more convenient the air is than the pro, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to the advent of parking reservations. The Macbook Air filled a demand for a lighter, more convenient user experience. The same demand is growing for parking reservations. Consumers want faster, easier experiences, and not only in the obvious fields such as computers and gadgets. Technology didn’t just stop with the PC, so why would it stop with credit card machines at garages? The answer: it wouldn’t.
Countless similar industries have ben revolutionized by technology, and, in terms of technological adaptation, have gone from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye. The parking industry, however, has taken its sweet time to accelerate. If we think back to just five or ten years ago, people actually had to call restaurants to make reservations, circle the streets to find parking, and visit a box office window to purchase movie tickets. Now, however, nightly plans are more likely solidified through OpenTable reservations, fandango purchases, and the one constant, circling the streets.
Enter SpotHero. Since parking is such an inevitable part of our daily lives, it seems only natural for it to have an online and mobile presence as strong as its restaurant and movie-facilitating counterparts. Just another way our new(ish) BFF, technology, continues to find and fill puzzle pieces we never even realized were missing. And the hope is that these technologies only continue advancing so that people’s lives can grow continuously simpler.
I am encouraged to believe in this ongoing simplification through my daily experiences at SpotHero. Just yesterday, I had my first call asking if there are plugs in a garage to charge a car. Having never received this question, I stumbled on my words a bit, and then confidently told the lady on the other end of the receiver I would have to check. I hate not having an immediate answer for a customer, but I smiled nonetheless. This was just another sign that parking is changing and advancing, and we are starting to keep up pace. There are likely entire stratospheres of parking technology yet to be unearthed, and finally we’re on the right track. Or rather, ramp.
So next time you hop on the World Wide Web, remember to “google SpotHero”. Or, if smartphones are more your thing, don’t forget that “there’s an app for that”. And while the process of reserving parking might seem a bit confusing now, with a little practice and patience, it won’t be long until we’re all saying “I SpotHeroed it”.