The very essence of technology nowadays is invisibility – you don’t see it, but it’s there, all the time and with everything you do. Just like any other industry, parking must adopt the concept of invisible technology in order to survive in the digital world.
What is invisible technology?
The beauty of technology is not just the things that it is able to do for us, but the fact that it does those things as an integral, almost indistinguishable part of our daily lives.
Imagine that you are:
- At the cashier at your local supermarket. After loading your groceries on the conveyor belt, you get to the cashier. To pay, you don’t have to tell your card how much to pay, nor does the cashier have to count all the prices together.
- Driving towards a previously unvisited location. You have your navigator on and you hear a voice telling you where to turn and when. Instead of having to move your location manually in the system, your car “drives” forward on the app just like it does on the road.
- About to call up a friend on your phone. You choose their name from your phone and click the green phone. You don’t need to connect yourself to that person in any way, yet within seconds you are able to talk to them in real time.
These are all things that the ancient man would have considered sorcery. And why not: technology that really works well is hard to distinguish from magic. It virtually reads your mind, just think of things like autocorrect and search engine suggestions. Invisible technology is essentially an extension of your actions – you are not fully conscious of it because it’s so integrated in everything you do.
Technology should be an invisible force that simplifies the things you do – something that you only notice when it’s gone.
Apple has been famous for its simplicity for a very long time now. The guiding principle behind all user experience design Apple creates is as follows: “We believe technology is at its very best when it’s invisible. When you’re conscious only of what you’re doing, not the device you’re doing it with…” All technology should aim to fulfill this principle if they really want to succeed.
The further our technology-dependent societies develop, the more we expect things to happen on our terms, as easily and as fast as possible. Software solutions help us save time for the essential things, or if it not, they quickly get run over by better technology that does.
So, how does one arrive at invisible technology? By always thinking “less is more.”
Whenever we do things, we do them with a goal in mind. A tech solution must be able to make you achieve that goal easier, and with the focus on the goal, not on the manual work you need to perform in order to achieve it.
A great rule of thumb when considering software solutions is to ask the following question: “what goal do I want to achieve?” and follow up that question with “how many buttons do I have to press before achieving that goal?” The less buttons, the less time and the less thought goes into achieving the desired goal, the better.
How invisible is technology when it comes to the parking industry? Not very.
This is where so many technology companies have failed, especially in today’s online parking industry. There’s really no magic factor, and too little automation. Having mobile payments in the parking industry is a great idea, no doubt about it. The sad reality is that mobile payment solutions have all missed the invisible aspect of technology.
Modern day parking solutions still require a high level of user activity and manual work, which is a large contributor to why they haven’t really taken off yet. In order to process a parking transaction with the traditional mobile payment companies that mostly depend on SMS and IVR solutions, the user experience is typically something like this:
- Register in advance for the online payment service.
- Once parked, walk up to the parking meter and shift through all of the instructions displayed on the machine. Locate necessary information such as area code and service phone number.
- Send a message, call a service number or use an app to enter the area code, parking time, and your license plate number.
- Get a confirmation that your parking transaction was completed.
Consumers are very picky when it comes to selecting and using apps. The above example illustrates how the user needs to focus on the time-consuming process because nothing is automated. In this case, technology has failed to be invisible, and thus failed to be usable.
Parking needs invisible technology to change the user experience. And actually, the whole industry.
Every task in the modern world becomes easier with technology. It’s not just about laziness – it’s about releasing time for doing other more valuable things rather than wasting time on getting necessities done. People spend way too much time scouting for parking spaces and shuffling coins for the meter, or typing in SMS payments. Saving all that lost time is the great challenge that invisible technology needs to tackle.
Now, let’s take another look at our examples of invisible technology that we addressed in the beginning. Parking needs to address all the factors that are also used by store cashiers, navigators and phones:
- Automated payments without cash
- Automatic location data with GPS
- Effortless, wireless communication between parking providers and motorists
These factors are missing when it comes to traditional mobile payments. Not only would they make the user experience significantly better, they would also enable a new level of cost-effectiveness and scalability for parking providers.
Like we have presented in our previous posts, technology has tremendous potential when it comes to revolutionizing the parking industry – not just payments, but the overall parking management and motorist experience. This will, however, not happen if launched solutions cannot live up to the standard of the near-magical experience that people expect. The technology is already there, it just needs to be harnessed to good use. The success of a new technology is measured by intuitiveness and simplicity – in short, invisibility.