Parking technology has finally caught up to our on-the-go culture: pay without paying attention. Researchers have built a device that does for parking lots what radio transponders do for highway tolls. You park, it keeps track.
The near field communications (NFC) system, dubbed Viatag, consists of 0.5 inch by 4-inch RFID windshield tags, parking lot transceivers that read tags, and a central database. The windshield tag signals the parking transceiver as you're entering and exiting a parking lot. A central database tallies your time in the lot and debits your account accordingly.
The tag is unobtrusive compared with bulky highway toll transponders. This is because it's a passive RFID tag--no batteries. Instead it draws power through the air--from radio waves sent by the transceivers.
The technology is a step beyond cashless parking systems that allow you to pay by phone. The problem with these systems is you have to pull out your phone and send a text. Who's got time for that?
Viatag isn't just a research project. The Fraunhofer Institute in Germany developed the technology for the German company motionID technologies. It's installed Viatag in parking lots in Essen, Duisburg, and Munich.
And they're not the only game in town. GAO RFID also makes an NFC parking lot payment system.
Nifty, as far as they go, but what we really need is for these systems to work with parking meters. That would mean no more running down the street with newly scrounged quarters because you're late for an appointment but don't want to get a parking ticket. With an RFID tag that talked to parking meters on your windshield, you wouldn't even have to notice that there's a meter in order to be paid up.