5. November 2014–
On the list of frustrations that come with busy and bustling city life, car owners would certainly place finding a parking spot as a notable concern. If driving around aimlessly waiting for a precious parking space has ever made you late and annoyed, then ParkTAG wants you to know about its technology.
The twelve person team located in Berlin has created an app that will help you and others who use the app find a parking space when you need it. During an interview with ParkTAG’s CEO Silvan Rath, I spoke to him about ParkTAG’s technology, its potential to change other industries, and what the startup has planned for its move to the U.S. with the German Accelerator next year.
Tell me more about ParkTAG.
ParkTAG turns smartphones into parking sensors. Basically, we take the sensor information that is generated by the gyroscope, accelerometer, and all different kinds of sensors in the phone. We use that to detect what you are doing. So, we can tell if you are searching for parking. We can tell if you have parked. We can even predict that you are about to vacate a parking space or if you already have vacated. We can use that information to share it between users of our system. It is a crowdsourcing concept, where users help users by notifying them that there is a free parking space somewhere very soon.
The twist is that we automate this process. We don’t rely on the users pressing a lot of buttons. We rather want this to be a very convenient process, so this is why we put a lot of work and a patent pending on this sensor fusion technology that detects parking patterns.
Where is ParkTAG available currently?
We have run our beta test, and we are starting to roll out further. Currently, we are mostly in Berlin, but we will go to Hamburg, Munich, and North Rhine-Westphalia very soon. Right now, we are preparing the marketing activities. Everything that you see so far is only beta users who have joined us without any marketing activities.
How many users do you have in Berlin?
I can give you a feeling of what the numbers are. It is around the 20,000 user mark. We don’t have regular updates on the user numbers publically.
You mentioned in a previous interview that you would use your recent $680,000 funding round to develop “additional urban applications.” Can you elaborate on that?
If you think about the connected car space and the urban mobility space, there is a lot of things that the city planners want to do with real-time data. So, we are currently working with relevant parties to find out how to best utilize data for traffic optimization. When we say “additional urban applications”, it is not necessarily apps that we put into the store, but it is things that the city planners can do with the data that we generate. The data is anonymous data about where parking occured, for example. Those kind of things can help optimize traffic flow. We are starting to work with cities, but it is a few quarters too early to bring something to market.
What is your business model?
We have a B2B business licensing model. Our technology is available as white label and as an SDK. If you think about what our technology can do, it is an alternative to near field communications and/or geo-fences. There are many more way to apply the predictive analytics technology that we have. It could be location-based advertising, optimizing delivery flow of a specific company, etc. Think, for example, about food delivery. What if you can have an automatic push notification that the delivery person has parked?
You are going to Silicon Valley soon with the German Accelerator. Tell me more about that.
In the U.S., there are lot of things happening currently in this space. There are other companies out there who auction off parking spaces. We think that is utterly wrong. You already paid for that parking space with your tax money. Why would you pay for it again? Why would you have a shadow economy happening around parking? For me, that feels very wrong. They are getting cease and desist letters from Boston, San Francisco, and Santa Monica. We pledge that we will never charge the user for parking with us, since a parking space is a public good, and you should not pay for it.
We want to go over to the U.S. and see if we can help it wash out those companies. We are looking for partners, team members, and potentially funding to roll out fast and furious over in the U.S.
What is your biggest challenge?
Distribution. We are a crowdsourcing model. That is how we can achieve critical mass. You need to have the right amount of users and right amount of spaces. We need a lot of drivers to participate to have a reliable service, so we are focusing on getting the product out to as many people as possible.
Thank you for your time.