People visiting downtown Fredericton and Saint John this summer will be given the opportunity to pay parking meters with their smartphones, thanks to a startup generating a lot of buzz in New Brunswick.
HotSpot Parking is developing cellphone apps that will allow people to pay their parking meter charges electronically. CEO and founder Phillip Curley said the company has been developing relationships with the two New Brunswick cities and is planning a pilot project for its hometown of Fredericton on Aug. 1 and for Saint John later that month. He plans to spend about six weeks monitoring the project, upgrading the technology and preparing for a rollout across Canada later this year.
“Hot Spot Parking is basically a parking service that allows retailers to connect with people who are parking,” Curley said in a phone interview from Fredericton. “We want to create a pay-by-phone service for small municipalities.”
Pay-by-phone parking is already a reality in larger cities such as Vancouver, and has been proven to actually increase parking meter revenue because people can pay without standing next to their car. It’s also great for retailers, who lose sales when customers have to dash out of a store to feed the parking meter. The idea is that if sales staff are working with client on a sale, the salespeople can pay the parking with their phones and retain the client. The goal is to help the municipality and local businesses.
Curley, an engineering student at University of New Brunswick, began to work on the project last December. He made contact with parking officials in Fredericton and Saint John, which he described as very progressive cities, and began to sit in on conferences to learn about their processes and issues.
Hotspot Parking then drew notice in March when it was the darling of the Startup Weekend event in Fredericton, drawing plaudits on Twitter from New Brunswick Innovation Foundation CFO Nicole LeBlanc.
By the end of the weekend, Curley had attracted a team of partners and $15,000 in angel funding that have helped him develop the project. He also won the Startup Weekend event, in which entrepreneurs have 54 hours to launch a business.
He has since broadened his relationships with the innovation foundation, which has invited him to several events, and the Pond-Deshpande Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UNB.
Curley said the company will have to raise more money once it finishes the pilot projects and completes its parking meter product.
“At that point, we’ll be looking to get it into things other than parking meters, like parking garages, parking lots,” said Curley. “We’ll be able to do things like tell them how much space there is left, all on their phone.”
He added there are about 160 cities in Canada alone that could use pay-by-phone parking services, and only 12 now do so. The product will be free to consumers during the trial phase and will charge a 20 per cent premium once it is rolled out to other cities. It is free to the municipality.