Project Brief: Ace Parking Management

Ace Parking Devices

Challenge

Ace Parking manages a significate number of parking lots in San Diego and across the country. In San Diego, their largest lots were the San Diego Convention Center and Qualcomm Stadium (former home of the San Diego Chargers). Ace had a desire to modernize transactions at the larger lots. Specifically, instead of having all customers pay in cash, Ace wanted to give employees in parking lots the ability to process credit card transactions and print receipts. All transactions would be recorded on Ace servers, however, internet connectivity at the parking lots could not be guaranteed. Finally, some customers would be buying parking in advance and have printed parking vouchers with barcodes that employees would have to accept.

Solution

I worked with the web developer to develop a system to meet these needs. The first step was to identify the necessary hardware. I decided to go with the Linea Pro 5 . At the time, the Lineas were the same devices Apple used as their mobile POS solution in Apple stores. It has a 2D barcode reader and a magnetic stripe reader (MSR) to enable employees to process credit card transactions.

Additionally, I decided to use the Star Micronics SM-t300i¬†Bluetooth mobile printer for receipt printing. I then wrote an app that connected to the printer via Bluetooth and to the Linea via the iPhone’s lightning port. The app would only process transactions after checking that the printer was connected and able to print receipts. Pre-purchased vouchers were downloaded to the app before an employee’s shift and uploaded on redemption using a store-and-forward technique in case internet connectivity was lost at any point.

Ace Parking now uses this system in lots across several cities. The system has processed over $23M in transactions to date.

Insights

It was in this project I learned the importance of having a defined and rigorous testing process for hardware and software before deployment. The initial rollout was for 40 devices in San Diego. Just because the app worked perfectly on one device did not mean we could assume all devices were set. We discovered that sometimes failure is due to hardware problems such as manufacturing defects.

Also, the project required the use of a Mobile Device Managment solution (MDM) as the only efficient way to make sure that all devices were configured appropriately. This also allowed us to lock down devices to prevent their unauthorized use.

Technologies and Methods

Requirement Solution
Mobile Device Management Profile Manager & Air Watch
Mobile Printing Star Miconics
Mobile Point of Sale Linea Pro 5