One day soon, your smartphone will be able to give you accurate, up to the minute information about available parking spaces without having to rely on the kindness of strangers as in most currently available apps for parking, according to Oren Elzam, co-founder & CEO of Israeli start-up Spaceek.
“There are several apps out there that help drivers find parking based on crowdsourcing and averaging of data as to when and where spaces are available, but they aren’t very accurate,” said Elzam. “Our sensor technology provides data on what spaces are available at any particular time by actually ‘seeing’ where there are open spaces and sending directions to users of the app. It’s like the Waze of parking.”
In most cities, finding a parking space on the street is a matter of location and luck. There are usually plenty of spots on side streets and outlying residential areas, but in commercial areas or city centers, drivers can find themselves circling the block for many minutes before they find a spot – or give up and park in a lot.
Spaceek seeks to eliminate the luck factor and replace it with definitive information. The start-up’s secret is a network of Bluetooth-enabled road reflectors that communicate with each other and with smartphones.
“This is a patented network idea that has not been used in the past,” said Elzam. “Each road reflector installed by us includes sensors that can determine if a car is parked in a space. If a space is free, the reflector passes that information on to other reflectors in the local reflector network, and if a driver using the Spaceek app is in the area, the sensors will communicate with the app via Bluetooth and show exactly where the open spaces are. The driver then selects the one he or she wants, and the app directs them to its exact location.”
In order to avoid confusion, said Elzam, the app marks the selected space as taken immediately; if the driver changes their mind and doesn’t show up within a few minutes, the space then gets marked as available again.
“The network covers spaces within a few blocks of the driver’s location, so it’s a matter of a few minutes for the driver to get there.” Elzam said. “The app just picks up on whatever spaces there are in each connected network.”
The sensors-equipped reflectors are weather-resistant, easy to install, and cost the same as regular reflectors – “so why wouldn’t a city want to use them?” asked Elzam.
Spaceek is currently running a well-received pilot in its hometown of Kfar Saba and is set to expand both there and in other towns.
“The concept we have devised can be applied to a lot of different scenarios, but we decided to start with parking, which until Spaceek really didn’t have an effective solution. But we expect to deploy this in the future in other areas, like mobility, smart metering, and more.”
Investors have been responding favorably.
“They wanted to raise $200,000, and we got them 40% more,” said Yaniv Shiryon, CEO of ExitValley, the Israeli venture capital fund Spaceek is working with. “It’s the kind of company we like – one that provides a solid service that can help people, accessible for both users and investors.”
In the Israeli VC world, ExitValley is known for its out of the box investments. While most VCs are interested in advanced communication technology and high-end cyber-security, ExitValley has invested in Babysitting, “the first app to help users find someone they can trust to watch their kids. It has location filters, reputation information, price, etc. We also invest in non-tech areas – for example, we’re helping a Tel Aviv pizza place open its second branch.”
Besides thinking differently on investments, the fund also thinks differently on investors. Sort of a crowdfunding for the masses, investors become direct partners in early-stage companies for a minimal amount. “We see it as the alternative to help Israelis get in on the action in their own country,” said Shiryon.