Designed for parking garages, the Smarking service, makes use of big data, analytics and the cloud, to help parking managers maximize pricing and availability based on usage patterns and other factors that could affect demand like weather, flight schedules and special events.
Co-founder and CEO Wen Sang says the parking issue caught his attention for a number of reasons, mostly because nobody had thought to this point to apply modern data analytics to parking garages. This, in spite of the fact that they had been collecting data for years.
Each time the gate goes up to let a car in, a payment is made, and the gate goes up again to exit; there is a data trail. It measures time and date the car entered and exited, how much they paid, the method of payment, and so forth.
Sang and his team saw an opportunity in this data, and they began developing a cloud solution to analyze the information. Smarking simply ingests the existing parking data as a means of historical comparison and then continues collecting it in real time. They present this data to parking lot managers in the form of an analytics dashboard.
They work with the existing parking management system, adding an analytics layer on top of that to give parking garage managers more information. They could use this to lower prices or offer promotions when demand is lowest and increase prices when it’s highest such as during a big event in town.
Garages that require staffing can use the information to determine staffing requirements. scheduling fewer people when there is less demand and more when they know there is going to be a burst.
Sang says garages could also share the information with consumers, so they can check the website (or use an app if they offer one) and see what demand is like. Imagine for instance, an airport knows that demand is up because of school vacation week, they can encourage people to find other ways to get to the airport.
Sang says the beauty of the idea is that every city has a similar issue and he believes his is the first company to attack this problem with data. For starters, Smarking is opening offices in San Francisco and Boston, but over time, if they are successful, they could see the system working in any city.
Smarking went through MIT’s Accelerator and it is currently a member of the Y Combinator winter, 2015 class. Sang says being a YC company has helped him and his partners refine their ideas and has helped guide them on sales strategy.
The company, which has its roots in the Boston area, was founded in 2013 and currently has 8 employees.
It’s probably not a surprise that the idea for this solution was germinated in Boston, a place where it’s often challenging to find parking. Sang says the idea began to percolate in his brain when he came to the US from China in 2010 and bought his first car and saw how difficult it was to park.
He believes his system can benefit consumers and parking businesses alike with the thorny problem of managing parking in big cities.