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Mobile technologies make it tougher to evade meter maids

One city in Oregon modernized its parking enforcement with mobile e-citation software on Samsung Galaxy devices, making it tougher to evade tickets.

More and more, mobile technologies are being used to solve old-world problems with a variety of different applications and devices.

Students and faculty at one Midwestern medical college access their textbooks and collaboration tools through enterprise mobility management (EMM) product AirWatch. Australia's national science agency uses a product called harmon.ie that allows users to interact and share information through one interface that connects its Yammer, Outlook and SharePoint.

Elsewhere, IBM's Fiberlink MaaS360 EMM helps one company's field technicians cut down on travel time and cost, while nCrypted Cloud, an app that secures Dropbox, recently helped health researchers securely collect sensitive patient information.

Now, Android smartphone software is helping a Pacific Northwest college town modernize --and mobilize -- its parking enforcement.

As the home of Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore. has many visitors every year and parking can be a problem, said Robel Tadesse, the city's MIS director.

The city sought an opportunity for parking enforcement officers to cover more ground during shifts, reduce errors, take images and organize data collected in the field and streamline its approach, Tadesse said. The city also restructured its neighborhood parking districts from two to 10 districts, which necessitated some changes in its enforcement strategy.

Corvallis decided the best way to do this was to provide mobile devices for its officers along with software to help with tracking. Gtechna, a parking software vendor headquartered in St. Laurent, Quebec, Canada develops e-citation software called Officer Parking to automate enforcement and tracking for law enforcement entities.

Companies that provide similar software include United Public Safety's ForCite, Cardinal Tracking Inc.'s TickeTrac and the T2 Flex Unified Parking Management Platform. Corvallis chose gtechna over other options because of its requirement for hosting the system on-premises as opposed to in the cloud, Tadesse said. ForCite and T2 just offer a cloud-based platform for customers, while TickeTrac runs on Microsoft SQL Server.

Implementing mobile technologies

Corvallis issued its four parking enforcement officers Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphones running Google Android. The city was concerned about a move to mobile technologies because the officers were veterans who'd been issuing tickets manually for many years, Tadesse said.

"We were very nervous going down the path with how they would adopt [the new software]," Tadesse said. "But [the officers] were thrilled with the experience. I get comments like 'the interface is so easy' and 'I can write more tickets than I used to be able to write manually.'

Corvallis parking enforcement officers still use a separate printing machine that produces physical tickets for parking violations, but all tracking of tickets and violations goes through the software on the Android devices. That information is then automatically imported into the city's ticket adjudication system. Previously, it was inputted manually, Tadesse said.

In addition to an easy-to-use interface, backend management of the gtechna product has been minimal for the city, Tadesse said.

Corvallis plans to add more features of the gtechna parking system in the future, including "digital chalking," as a way to manage time limits in specific parking zones. Officers take down a license plate number and then receive an alert on their device once time expires for that vehicle's space.

The city has made suggestions to gtechna about items it would like to see added to its platform in the future, including the ability to record audio, Tadesse said.

Corvallis tried to implement similar initiatives in the past but the technology simply wasn't far enough along to make a difference, Tadesse said.

"In the past, there was no real-time communication," he said. "Now, the moment you put in a ticket, it's in the database."

A gtechna spokesperson did not provide specific pricing details for its parking software, however, the City of Corvallis spent $30,000 on its system as a one-time fee, with additional maintenance costs. Licensing is on a per-user basis and licensing cost will increase if the city adds more parking officers as a result, Tadesse said.

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If I was to decide which system to choose for parking enforcement, I would have gone for a cloud-based system to scale down capital expenditures.
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