IPS Group, a Cellular Equipment Firm, Raising $1.5 Million in Shift to Parking Meter Business

8/7/09Follow @bvbigelow

The IPS Group, a specialized San Diego cellular technology company, is raising $1.5 million in funding from individual investors as part of a shift to the development of high-tech parking meters. The privately held company has raised more than $1.3 million so far, according to a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company launched its line of parking meters, which are solar-powered, wireless, and Internet-enabled, in May 2008, says Chad Randall, IPS Group’s chief operating officer. “We think we have a product that is not just unique in our space, but is also timely in the current economy as a way for municipalities to increase their revenue,” Randall says.

The funding is intended for general working capital, and investors are current shareholders, Randall says. IPS Group’s president and CEO, David W. King, also is the majority owner of the company, which has 15 employees. The meters represent a strategic shift for the IPS Group and are now the primary focus of the business, which previously specialized in wireless telecommunications equipment.

IPS meter

IPS meter

Randall says the company’s parking meters offer several advantages over existing insert-coin-and-twist-the-lever technology. A solar cell and rechargeable battery makes each unit entirely self-powered, and wireless capabilities give motorists the option of either inserting coins or using a credit card to feed the meter . And because each meter is Web-enabled, Randall says city officials can use a desktop computer linked to the Internet to track each meter’s revenues. The Internet also makes it far easier, logistically, for a city to increase its parking rates.

“Our meter really plugs in seamlessly to current meter operations,” Randall says. IPS Group even has designed its meter as a retrofit unit, so it can be installed on the poles of existing parking meters.

“What we’re providing is exceptional convenience to users and exceptional convenience to our customers,” Randall says. He maintains that IPS Group’s meters increase municipal parking revenue in two ways. “People typically pay for more time when they use the credit card payment option [rather than available change]. That’s No. 1,” he says. “And quite honestly, a lot of municipalities are interested in increasing their rates—but they’re reluctant to do so because of the increased inconvenience to the public, in terms of requiring them to carry more change.”

IPS sells its meters from coast to coast, and Randall says demand has been so strong that he predicts, “Our installed base in the next six to nine months will increase tenfold.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Gc

    Quick brainstorm of some more obvious ways wirelessly connected parking meters might help increase municipal parking funds:

    1. credit card payments reduce labor requirements, since the coin bin fills up less quickly so collectors can collect the change less frequently.

    2. wireless communications can tell the collector which meters are full, so less labor is wasted opening meters that are not nearly full yet. (Traveling meter collector challenge: find the quickest route to just the meters that need collecting today. Add nearby meters that will need collecting soon.)

    3. Help parkers find open spaces, to reduce unpaid unoccupied time. Wireless occupancy map helps parkers find space a block away down a side street or hidden in a parking lot. An ‘open’ space might either be an expired space, or if the meters have occupancy detectors, an unoccupied space. Soon-to-expire spaces that might open up soon could also be shown with different icon or color. (Possible additional benefits: less vehicles searching may lead to less smog and greenhouse gas emissions.)

    4. Increase parking ticket revenue: If the meters have occupancy detectors, then they can help increase ticket revenue by identifying occupied expired spaces, and the meter checker can bike straight to that meter to issue a ticket. Or if paid by credit, then the ticket can be immediately associated with the owner of the credit card (assuming the driver paid, not a passenger), with an option for the owner to charge it to the credit card.

    5. The parking meeter might help you find your car: It might broadcast its gps coordinates to your phone if you forget where you parked. A happier shopper may be more likely to come back frequently. (This may not work so well as strict gps, since parking spaces are hard to find when they are not open, such as between tall buildings or in parking garages. Maybe meeter-net could form its own location service, similar to wifi-based location services, using either wifi or bluetooth to the phone. I can imagine telling my phone to ask the meeters where to go, and the nearby meeters respond with blinking arrows telling me which way to go, backed up with a map on my phone in case it is rush hour.)

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/bbigelow/ Bruce V. Bigelow

    Gc: These are all great, thoughtful comments. Thanks!