The pandemic halted commuting and put a temporary end to the second rage of many workers: parking.
But parking service provider ParkMobile didn’t stop as passengers were working from home during those early months of COVID-19, instead taking advantage of the downtime its business has seen to accelerate its digital transformation to cloud-native infrastructure in the most efficient way possible. Possible cost.
The Atlanta-based company, which began its digital transformation in 2018, began moving its assets from a locally managed service provider to Amazon Web Services in the mid-2020s as offices across the US remained closed — and parking spaces remained empty.
What made ParkMobile’s approach unique, according to Chris Salomon, Vice President of Software and Cloud Engineering, was the suite of technologies chosen out of the gate to gain fast efficiencies, including Amazon Elastic Cache, Amazon Aurora for MySQL, Postgres, Amazon Relational Database Service, and Amazon Managed Streaming for Kafka.
Today, ParkMobile’s cloud transformation is nearly 90% complete, with 80% cloud infrastructure and 20% on-premises or managed services, Salomon says.
“We’re less focused on operations” now because of the shift, he says. “Instead of having people here just looking at your databases 24/7, we’re actually taking advantage of the resources we get from AWS as managed services.”
For example, ParkMobile has published many of the “well-structured patterns and columns for user management and security that AWS deploys,” he says, noting benefits such as lower costs and compliance. “We have good reference structures to follow because we have to be PCI compliant.”
The cloud has become a sort of crowd-sourcing strategy for many organizations during the pandemic, but ParkMobile has been no stranger to the upside of the model, says Salomon, noting that 90% of the tools ParkMobile relies on “are already through some kind of SaaS model.”
“We were prepared for this entry into the pandemic,” he says. “Sure, we’ve had a few hiccups along the way with serving everyone who wants a VPN at the same time. But even our tools we use [internally] are managed tools”, including the Atlassian suite, DataDog, JFrog Artifactory, and CircleCI.
ParkMobile is also recruiting Yotascale to prevent its cloud costs from spiraling out of control, an issue some organizations are facing in making this transition.
“I come from a large organization, so I’m very cost conscious,” Salomon says. “What people complain about the cloud is that it is expensive. But this has clearly been proven otherwise. It just depends on how you do it, who you are, what you’re transferring, and then whether or not you want to go to the original cloud.”
Back Digital Parking
ParkMobile, like most businesses, hit a wall when the pandemic changed business as usual in March 2020. But with the vaccine largely freed from home confinement, the company’s parking service has seen a steady rise as retail and restaurant businesses recover and some offices-open.
Additionally, the ParkMobile sales team is focused on selling its parking service to municipalities and universities and expanding into new geographies to increase revenue.
Next, ParkMobile is collaborating with private garage operators and municipalities on IoT innovations, such as placing sensors on license plates and integrating cameras on electronic gates to automate its service to customers.
EasyPark, based in Stockholm, in June finalized its acquisition of ParkMobile, which employs 800 workers. EasyPark has been buying up competitors in Europe, and with ParkMobile, it has added a presence in the United States, which is more car-centric than countries across the pond.
Salomon says EasyPark has been impressed by the advanced state of ParkMobile’s digital transformation, which will not only drive growth but make the company more attractive in the talent war.
“They were impressed with where we are in the AWS infrastructure and how enterprise-focused we are in some of our solutions. We are more modern in our country. [technology] Salomon says, adding that the name of the US subsidiary will change to EasyPark but the new owners will give the US subsidiary autonomy and invest more in its digital goals.
The ParkMobile investment gives deeper pockets to hire more engineers in Atlanta, where Microsoft also has a development center. Salomon says ParkMobile’s cloud-native infrastructure makes it easy to attract employees.
“We lost a lot of people in the pre-acquisition, but we actually go back a lot, which is very surprising,” he says. “We’re near the bleeding edge, if not groundbreaking, and engineers love working on shiny new objects.”
ParkMobile acknowledges that the enterprise’s continuous hybrid business model – where many knowledge workers continue to work remotely – is not conducive to its bottom line. But Salomon and others point out that the return of rush hour is inevitable in many American cities, such as Boston, San Francisco and Atlanta. Car use and the need for parking will only grow when citizens resume shopping, eating out, attending sporting events and driving to entertainment venues.
Salomon says the biggest challenge for ParkMobile is getting municipalities to install more modern street payment devices, convincing garage operators to remove kiosks, and implementing ParkMobile sensors and apps to make the parking process fully automated for drivers.
“I can’t speak to 30 or 50 years old when we have advanced technology and we don’t need cars anymore, or we drive with self-driving cars,” Salomon says. “But I don’t think the need for parking will take off anywhere soon.”