Mobile Dial-up Parking Meter Trial A World First

Residents in Sydney’s inner west may soon get a taste of the mobile future when Leichhardt Council introduces a pilot program that allows parking meter fees to be paid using a mobile phone.

The Australian-designed software used in the system is able to send a signal to a mobile phone warning if a parking meter is about to expire and allow the user to top up the meter by phone.

However, this new level of convenience does not work entirely in favour of the owner of the car.

The flip side is that a council parking officer, using a phone, will be able to see who has parked legally or otherwise, whether the driver has paid by their phone, smartcard or coin, and book offenders in real time.

The 404 parking meters in the Leichhardt municipality were installed by the Hong Kong-owned Wilson Equipment Services using hardware supplied by European companies SkiData and Hectronic.

Depending on how the pilot program developed, it might provide a test bed for developing a micro-payments system that was not tied to any one telecommunications carrier, said Mr Rob Hellstrom, Asia-Pacific vice-president of Soprano, the company that developed the software.

He said all the major carriers had expressed interest in the pilot program and it was possible they would agree to act as parking fee collectors for the council. Alternatively, a bank might become involved and act as a clearer for the payments.

“Initially, we will probably find some sort of pre-payment arrangement so we can get money into an account, and from there it would be drawn down by the mobile phone user,” Mr Hellstrom said.

He said the Leichhardt pilot program would be the first in the world to integrate mobile phones, meters, payment and infringement capabilities.

“Mobile services available today are only scratching the surface of what can be done even on today’s mobile phones,” Mr Hellstrom said.

Australians have reacted positively to recent pilot programs involving mobile phones and m-commerce.

A recent trial by Telstra and Coca-Cola to persuade rail commuters to buy cans of drink using their mobile phones proved a startling success, boosting sales of the soft drink at Sydney’s Central Station by 10 per cent.

A recent fundraising exercise involving Telstra and the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome charity on Red Nose Day saw hundreds of thousands of red nose images downloaded to mobile phones using WAP software developed by Soprano.

Soprano’s corporate and government business development manager, Ms Tracey McSullea, said a successful pilot in Leichhardt would open the door to a host of other applications, including payment for theatre and movie tickets.