Kiwi ingenuity leads the way in finding carparks

KASHKA TUNSTALL
Last updated 05:00 21/07/2012

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We all get frustrated trying to find a park - a Cambridge inventor has capitalised on that angst and built a multimillion-dollar global enterprise manufacturing a solution.

Car Parking Technologies founder Paul Collins began developing infra-red sensors nine years ago after he found parking in Hamilton's CBD inadequate and often had to walk into town to get to work.

"There's a rumour that I first started building the sensors on my kitchen bench. That's true," he says.

He developed the prototype at home, manufacturing dozens by hand with the help of his wife Joanne, his children and some of his kids' mates.

The idea behind the technology was simple. Sensors installed on the ground of the carparks alerted parking meters when cars left parking bays, so that the meter would wind back to zero and other cars were unable to use any remaining minutes previous parkers had paid for.

The public didn't respond well to the technology.

"People love to piggyback on free parking but the truth of the matter is that the council needs revenue to put back into the city," he says.

But Collins went back to the drawing board with the sensors. The result was guidance systems that lead drivers to vacant parks, infringement systems and innovative overstay technology that remotely notifies infringement officers about offending vehicles.

Now Car Parking Technologies (CPT) is listed on the ASX and lauded as a Waikato success story.

Managing director Collins employs 28 staff at his Cambridge offices and manufacturing plant, over a dozen more at a research and development centre in Auckland and an additional 700 staff in Britain.

Earlier this year the company shelled out $18.5 million to purchase Town & City Parking UK, one of Britain's fastest-growing retail parking companies which manages more than 1000 car parks for big supermarket chains and retailers.

The global reach of CPT's technology is extensive. It can be found in Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Australia, Britain and the Netherlands.

But the technology is on our doorstep too. The Base is fully equipped with CPT's sensor technology, as are other sites countrywide.

The company also compiles statistics about car parking movements in cities and towns, giving local councils critical information about where people go and how often they go there.

The statistical information is key for retailers and councils alike, Collins says.

"Information is valuable to the retail association.

"I can show how [parking] affects the town's flow, how it affects the town's income, how it affects the retailers' income," Collins says.

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It costs $300 to $400 to install one sensor into a bay in car parking buildings and open parking areas but the company often leases the technology to parking buildings or takes a cut of the revenue.

Collins won't discuss revenue as the annual report is set to be released in early August, but he is confident the company will be looking at a healthy return.

CPT is all about Kiwi ingenuity, Collins says.

The company only employs locally, manufactures domestically and uses as much New Zealand-sourced material as possible.

The mantra of the business is to make the parking experience easier and more efficient for the end user.

It has developed a free smartphone app that lists every available park at each site CPT operates at, going into detail such as which restaurants i have easy access parking available outside.

No more rummaging through bags for loose change, Collins says. Instead, smartphones will be the means of payment. Tap-and-go options will be available - phones at parking meters and electronic tags in cars that are linked to credit cards are in development to remove the at-site payment process completely.

You'll be able to reserve parks too.

"Parking affects everybody . . . it's all about making life easier."

- Waikato Times

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