Here’s how this Japanese startup tackles urban parking woes using smart poles



See the original story in Japanese.

We are told that one out of five drivers in urban areas in the US is constantly driving in circles hunting for a parking space. As problem solvers, parking-sharing services, such as Akippa in Japan, JustPark and Park Circa in other countries, are emerging.

Released in early November, eCoPA is an Internet of Thing (IoT) solution that uses sensor cameras for parking lots. Users can browse spaces before leaving home and book one of them if the parking has a reservation system. Using the mobile app, they can check how long they have parked and how much they have been charged, and even make a payment. eCoPA does not require car-locking units typical in Japan. eCopa does not adopt a flapping metal plate to trap a vehicle, which is typical for wheel blocking in the parking lot but sometimes annoy the drivers by damaging their cars or making them struggle to park in the right position.

eCoPA installs in each parking lot a pole with a built-in camera and sensors that can read a license number on the plate. These poles enable drivers to see the on their smartphones how many lots are available in real-time. With a patented technology that can read license plates, eCoPA also serves as a security system to prevent unpaid parking. Compared with a conventional parking system having the aforementioned locking units, eCoPA saves space owners some 40 percent in the initial cost if they install the system in parking lots accommodating 7 vehicles.

In November, two companies decided to adopt the eCoPA system. S-cubism Technology, the Japanese startup behind the system, aims to install it in 100 parking lots in a year. To bring adequate traffic to eCoPA-installed parking lots, the company plans to distribute information to mobile car-navigation or map apps.

Masanori Takeshita, President of S-cubism Technology, says:

Currently, Times and Mitsui’s Repark are the only car-parking brands in Japan that provide apps for drivers to find parking spaces using mobile map apps. eCoPA provides a parking system at a reasonable price. We will help smaller parking lot operators, who have a limited budget for IT investment, publish their available spaces online and get drivers to find them.

Tekeshita developed eCoPA because he found it difficult himself to search out a parking space when he drove with his family to parks, supermarkets or other places, as car parks of those facilities were often full. He could release eCoPA thanks to declining costs of cameras and sensors as the IoT is growing fast.

A conventional parking system usually costs millions of yen to implement car-locking units and automated pay stations. But eCoPA requires only 120,000 yen ($1,000) for a pole, plus an installation fee starting at 200,000 yen ($1,600) for integrating with the mobile app and the cloud system. eCoPA enables landowners to use even their small spaces effectively.

Watch the video below to see how eCoPA works.

Translated by Shinobu Ishikawa
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy