This potential of combined access and parking management also illustrates an important shift from selling a straightforward security system to selling a revenue generation system, and a change in the nature and role of the buyer of such systems. Whereas the traditional access control system buyer is likely a security professional or facilities manager, the buyer for a parking management solution could come from an entirely different role within the organization: financial management, marketing, or even sales, if the initiative for a managed parking program is seen as a “top line” program by the property owner or management company.
This shift in the buyer’s role means a different set of priorities and criteria than what normally govern pure security system sales. Now, the two most important aspects are to demonstrate how the proposed system creates an easily managed solution that is attractive to the parking public, and how readily the solution will produce a new revenue stream.
The ease-of-use question will depend on such factors as Web access to core technology, so that managers can easily gauge usage, monitor the system remotely, and resolve issues from wherever they happen to be working (particularly during off hours). Revenue-oriented buyers will also expect solutions that can easily integrate with existing billing systems through standards-based data exchange techniques such as XML.
How attractive this is to the parking public—particularly for reserved parking—will depend on how seamlessly the solution is integrated with other business processes such as making a room reservation in a hotel, or gaining access to parking at a business destination. Here again, back-end integration with other IT systems is critical so that necessary information exchanges happen automatically and do not place a burden on the end user. It will be important for the integrator to be able to present a strategy for how all the relevant systems can be made to “work and play well together”—a pitch that will probably involve a fairly detailed review by an IT audience at some point during the sales process.
Finally, selling to this new type of buyer may also mean a more involved educational or “consultative” selling process than normally encountered for a pure security systems sale. There are several reasons for this. First, a non-security professional is unlikely to be familiar with the principles or equipment used in an access control system, or even what the state of the art is within the industry at large. It will be important to explain the advances that IP-based systems have made possible, and how they allow traditional access control systems to perform expanded roles within the facility management context. Second, this new buyer may not even be familiar with how automation systems work at all—particularly if their primary focus is revenue enhancement rather than a more operational discipline. For these buyers, it will be important to diagram the business process surrounding the technical solution you are proposing.
What if there is already an existing parking solution?
Today’s most visible parking systems are often geared toward pay-per-use, first-come, first-served solutions. These parking systems typically consist of an embedded ticket-based system, with either an automated payment system (e.g., pay-on-foot) or an attendant-operated revenue collection capability. They also include additional hardware and software systems such as fee computers, cashier terminals, pay stations, entry and exit stations, and, of course gates, and readers. Most importantly, they also include a “parker database” that parallels the “user database” found in every commercial access control system.
The database functionality found in such systems becomes the basis for integration of parking and building access solutions when the integrator is interested in helping the client to form a “garage to suite” solution for tenants. Demonstrating the ability to do so can be a compelling competitive advantage when competing against other bidders for the project.
What to Look for
For the integrator, knowing what to look for in an access control solution can be the difference between a simple integration to a parking system—or a nightmare. That’s where the types of APIs found on contemporary IP-based access solutions become a big differentiator. Since they are not all created equal, here’s a short list of things to look for: