Curiosity Drives Innovation

Published May 4, 2022

This article first appeared in the May 2022 issue of Parking Today magazine.


Curiosity is the root of innovation. Throughout the parking industry, we know this to be true.

For Propark Mobility, curiosity began with CEO John Schmid. Now, the entire company is on a journey to learn, grow, and innovate.

Our curiosity set Propark on its current path, established our four main pillars – people, sustainability, technology, and data – and inspired us to pursue cutting-edge innovation that moves the industry forward.


Starting With People

In 1984, curiosity led to the inception of Propark and its central focus on people. From our team to our clients, people became the heart of our organization. We’ve believed in the power of human connection and continuously strived to recognize and honor individuals for who they are, not just what they can do. This foundational belief has allowed us to connect as a community and harness our collective curiosity to collaborate, innovate, and create.


Foray into Sustainability

In 2009, John’s creative curiosity led the company toward sustainability. Heading the team building Canopy Airport Parking in Denver, CO, John helped create the most sustainable, innovative parking lot of its time. The resulting 4,500-space LEED Gold operation became a practical demonstration of energy-saving, environmentally responsible technologies.

Within the sustainable parking movement, Propark set its sights on its next endeavor: electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Our curiosity about this future-defining opportunity inspired us to create JuiceBar EV Charging Stations and collaborate with BMW on two mobility ventures. As a result, Propark’s officers became educated on sustainability, technology, and mobility – solidifying the foundation for Propark’s future.


Smartphone Command Center

Simultaneously, we became curious about Clyde Wilson’s pioneering work on command centers and Focus Point. We believed in his vision, saw the command center’s role in the parking industry’s future, and, with great respect for his work, set out to develop our own.

The first iteration of our command center, Cloudpark Remote Management Center, was like a rotary phone. It was analog. While we had a clear vision and successfully served clients and customers, we saw areas for growth and worked to perfect our system. We tested communication methodologies, enhanced timing, and enabled scalability by writing our own code – ultimately transforming Cloudpark from a rotary phone to a smartphone.

Our in-house team of software engineers built a robust software platform and a command center that automated gate vending and customized each location’s specific processes through operations-driven SOP. This included the ability to analyze customer emotives using artificial intelligence and provide real-time alerts to managers and clients to optimize operations.


Pay-in-Lane Technology

Command center technology sparked more curiosity and we contemplated other ways to enhance the customer experience, including more integrated pay-in-lane options.

We focused on simplifying payment processes for users who were cashless, handling a faulty ticket, or interacting with malfunctioning equipment in departure lanes. Rather than manually requesting their personal information, we implemented scannable QR codes. Fully integrated with our command center platform and the clients’ PARCS, these allowed customers to pay directly from their phones. A predicament that previously yielded a modest 5-10% collection rate, now yielded a game-changing 80%.


Intelligence Data

With results like this, our curiosity reentered the equation. We sought to enhance how we analyzed our technology’s wealth of data. With our team of software engineers, we approached the data through the lens of parking industry experts. This allowed us to contextualize data, identify the most important results, and leverage them to benefit our clients.

From there, our drive for optimization led us to develop real-time forecasting. We built a system that enabled line managers to create daily forecasts, project next month’s forecast, and, by mid-month, predict end-of-month results with 96% accuracy. This meant we could make decisions in real time.

We debuted this feature at the start of 2020 – months before the onset of COVID. It became crucial to our operations, providing real-time numbers for every client and location as situations changed rapidly. Reflecting each shift, the data helped us respond on a customized level for every location and navigate the uncertain waters of COVID.


Demand Generation

The pandemic ignited more curiosity, especially about reaching customers. Stay-at-home orders radically shifted consumer behavior and we could no longer flag drivers into garages. Instead, we needed to target audiences online and effectively market parking locations for their rare outings. To accomplish this, we implemented leading digital marketing practices that yielded the most promising results.


Today’s Innovation

13 years later, the curiosity that began our foray into sustainability led us to invest in game-changing technology, develop critical expertise in data and revenue forecasting, innovate proprietary payment technology, and implement effective demand practices. In short, it completely revolutionized Propark.

So, is curiosity the root of innovation? It certainly is for Propark. I wonder where it’ll take us next.


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