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NFC Pays for Parking With HonkTAP

Technology company Honk Mobile has teamed up with Smartrac and Apple to create a system for users to tap a phone against an NFC sticker to make a payment within seconds, without requiring the downloading of an app.
By Claire Swedberg

Users who want further support can download the Honk Mobile app, which will provide additional options. For instance, if an individual often parks at a specific lot, he or she can buy an unlimited plan with the lot, or simply keep license plate information on file to make the process faster. The app can also enable individuals to receive a notice when their paid parking time is set to expire, as well as invite them to make another payment if they plan to be away from the car for additional time.

If an individual's parking payment expires, the parking operator can view that data in real time. The operator can also gain analytical data, such as when the lot is crowded and how long people park there, and then adjust pricing accordingly, for instance. Honk Mobile can access the parking data as well, and La says he reviews the number of new tags that are commissioned each day, as well as the number of payment transactions. "I get a report every day," he states, "seeing how many are getting configured and how many transactions there are."

At one university, Honk Mobile found that during the first week, 5 percent of those parking at the lot used the HonkTAP NFC solution. By the third week, the percentage rose to 16 percent, and it is now closer to 25 percent as users realize the NFC-based payment option is available and learn how to use it. "It's so much easier than lining up a photo" for a QR code, Barton explains.

"Previously," La says, "people had to download apps, type in numbers—this is bridging that gap." The small transactions of parking payments, he adds, serve as a good use case for these kinds of payments, for their speed and convenience. The highest use rates are in places where queues often form at payment terminals, such as busy lots in areas near farmers' markets or other heavily trafficked locations. It is being used especially often by iPhone users, the company reports. The NFC tag designed for parking meters measures 3 inches by 3 inches, Barton reports, while the large NFC tags are designed to be applied to a poster or affixed to a wall within a covered parking area, for example, and measure 13.5 inches long by 8.5 inches wide.

The 1-millimeter-thick on-metal tag is thinner than traditional tags designed with non-metal spacers, Barton says, such as foam. It uses a thin layer of ferrite, he adds, and by utilizing the HF 15693 ISO standard (rather than NFC's ISO 14443 standard), it achieves approximately the same read range as a tag that has a 6-millimeter spacer, so that it can be read effectively by both iOS- and Android-based devices.

The decal in which the tag is built is provided by WS Packaging Group, due to its ability to work with NFC technology and provide weather resistance. So while Smartrac produces the HF and NFC labels, WS Packaging Group accomplishes the converting, printing and encoding of ach decal.

While the solution is now deployed across Canada (a total of approximately 10,000 decals are currently in use), it is also being launched in Milwaukee, Wis., Houston, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y. The first installations took place at the University of Victoria, in Vancouver, B.C., during a two-month pilot conducted this past spring. As the company expands throughout the United States and Canada, La says, "I think we're just scratching the surface" for parking solution opportunities. "This is the next step in how the physical world is going to be connected to the digital world."

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