Roundup of IPI 2016: Innovations Are On The Horizon

The largest parking event in the world is now officially over, but the takeaways and action items are just beginning.

First, the numbers. 3 days, 250 exhibitors, and 3,500 attendees representing over 45 countries–truly a rich and diverse international educational experience.

From pricing strategies to LEED certification garage designs, the topics were timely and informative.

Nashville was a gracious host to parking professionals from around the globe, offering a perfect blend of educational sessions, vendor exhibits, networking, and entertainment.

From the show floor, here is our roundup of the latest trends, conversations, and analysis on the state of the industry:

Technology Rules the Week

If there was a clear trend at the show, it was the continued emergence of technology in the parking space (pun intended). From focused TechTalks right in the middle of the Exhibit Hall to flashy gadgets and widgets at every corner booth, it was like a parking show and tell.

“The IPI event always has a technology focus, but this year seemed even more so than usual,” said Max Mickey, Sales Analyst at Passport.

Sensor technology was evident across the show and conversations revealed an increased interest in moving from handhelds to smartphones and tablets for parking enforcement. “Everything is moving to an app-based platform that is lightweight and in real-time,” said Mickey.

“LPR/pay by plate seems to be where things are headed. There were lots of questions and talk about LPR technology, even from pay by space environments. Taking advantage of this service could also see a rise in digital permits,” Alex Wells, Sales Associate noted.

David Singletary, Regional Vice President of Sales, discovered a growing importance on integrations. “They’re more important than ever. With everything coming online, more systems need to be able to communicate to one another,” he said.

Lastly, big data always finds a way to sneak into the conversation. Specifically, how can data between parking and transportation link to achieve great goals and connect decision makers to their communities in more impactful ways. Mining the treasure trove of data and turning that into actionable plans are key objectives on everyone’s plate.

Service is King

We all know the importance of service. It is one of those things that stays in the back of our mind and only presents itself when it is either really good or really, really bad. Dinners can be glorious or disastrous–not because of the food, but because of the service. A lot of companies take pride in their service model, and some deliver exceptional experiences, like grocery retailer Publix.

Business culture has by and large shifted from a product-driven experience to a service-centric experience. While we still want products to work properly, be top-of-the-line, and meet our needs, the customer service that comes along with that product is hyper important.

Emails that go unanswered, concerns that aren’t acknowledged or even addressed, and phones that ring off the hook can frustrate the consumer to the point of looking elsewhere for a new provider. The keynote speaker for IPI, Dennis Snow, hit this point hard about creating a great experience and combining technology with a service-oriented approach to ultimately satisfy your customers. He should know, as he launched a division of the Disney Institute focused on helping companies refine their service offering worldwide.

Passport is super focused on service. With a fully dedicated team for both clients and end users, we take the job seriously. We make mistakes, sure, but we understand a fundamental ingredient in great customer service–the customer is not a distraction to our day–they are the reason for our jobs. As a company, we invest heavily in the success of clients. At IPI, we focused on this very aspect by forming our Client Advisory Board. This roundtable of client experts provides us valuable feedback on how we are doing, not only with our technology, but as a service provider.

Smart City Rising

A final major trend at IPI was the hype around ‘smart cities’. Booth after booth had the words lined up on the marquee and collateral was passed out touting smart city solutions and capabilities. It is certainly a hot topic with many stakeholders and providers. We believe it is also a term searching for a definition.

Smart cities have a variety of components. These range from smart healthcare, where patients have access to doctors and services readily and digitally, to smarter education and energy. Where do parking and transportation companies fit in? Is it even reasonable to tout the smart city moniker in this industry?


One of the factors that drive smart cities is smarter mobility. This includes getting people around cities faster and safer with technology that helps drive the bus (again, pun intended). Smart sensors, mobile ticketing, parking reservations, and more all play a piece in a smart city, albeit a fraction of the total pie.

The USDOT is focused on this piece, issuing a smart city challenge to emerging markets in the United States. The stakes? A huge $40 million grant to implement smart city ideas. As of this writing, there are seven finalists competing for the top award and Passport is proud to be a part of several of the final cities plans.

But, who is ultimately leading the charge? What companies are truly ‘smart city leaders’?

Navigant Research published a “Top 10 Smart City Supplier” list recently, highlighting the companies that are a driving force in smart city solutions globally. Companies like IBM (think, Watson) and Cisco top the list, while others include Panasonic, GE, and SAP. These are large, complex organizations with huge research and development teams focused on improving efficiency, connectivity, and sustainability.

Why is there so much fuss about smart cities, anyway? A few years ago, Forbes reported that the market for smart cities was a whopping $1.5 trillion. That is trillion. With a T. A big capital T.

Final Thoughts

As the booths began to come down and attendees booked Ubers back to the airport, we couldn’t be more excited about the future of the parking industry. Companies are innovating. There is real energy about the progress we’ve made and a determination to make the parking world better. More sustainable. More efficient. More parker-friendly.

“IPI is an extraordinary event.  It is excellent to be able to connect with so many colleagues each year and hold powerful conversations with the best and the brightest in the industry.  Each day of IPI brought thought provoking conversations about the industry, sessions that covered exciting new initiatives, and a chance to connect with friends,” said Kelsey Owens, Sales Associate at Passport.

What’s next? A full year to implement the valuable lessons we learned and time to start booking flights to New Orleans for IPI 2017.