Friday, 12 August 2011

Parking lot App

Currently I am living in London's suburb but I travel to London a lot. Mostly by car. According to statistics there are about 11 million people live in Greater London. If assume that a half of them own a car we end up with 5.5 million cars.

Some of them use car every day others just occasionally. So if drive to London during the day you can use only paid parkings. And there are few mobile apps which do a good job by providing information about available street and NCP parkings.

Central part of the city divided into several boroughs and each has its own regulations regarding using single yellow line and times when you can park on it. They are so called parking zones. Most apps also provide this sort of information.

And that is very cool. Because such information is really handy but it also publicly available. So this is nothing exclusive in any of those apps.

There are a few area not covered by any of those apps, though. For example, there a few place without yellow line so you can park there any time. Their number is constantly decreasing. Also none of the apps shows you where you can find single yellow line and park there. So if do not know well you currently driving to it may take a while you to find an available spot.

Also let's consider following scenario which is not that rare, especially in Friday evenings. You are stack in traffic near Hammersmith but you need to go to Piccadilly. It would be much faster to leave the car at Hammersmith and take a tube. In that case  there a few opportunities for you. The obvious one is a car park under Hammersmith shopping centre. It is well known and nicely located that is why possibility to find available space there at this time of the day is very low. However this is another car park just 2 blocks away. It is less popular and cheaper as well. Of course, existing apps will provide you with that kind of information but they will not tell you how likely to find a free slot there. Again this information is not available but it can rally help desperate drivers.

Another advantage could be information about single yellow lines in near by as I mentioned above. In some places restrictions are in action until 8.30 pm but there is possible that just block away there are not such restrictions at this time.

Again this kind of information is not available so it should be collected manually. It's a huge chunk of work. But the good news not all places are equally popular. Usually those are near train stations, parks, shopping malls and big office centres.

And of course you can sell this exclusive information. There are a few business models you can use for this app. The obvious one is to make two versions free light one and paid premium one. In this case app should be native and sold via App Store. Or you can sell subscription (daily, monthly, annual) and in this case the app can be either native or web.

Basically this idea is not about app per say but about exclusive information, ways to collect and sell it. Mobile app is only one possibility to monetize the idea. Also you can make the information available through an API and sell subscription for it. Or you can come up with some location based services on top of that information and sell those services to clients or other developers.

At this point the most difficult part is to evaluate the cost of gathering, updating and maintaining such data base in long run. From my own experience, development and operational expenses would be a small fraction of that cost.

Nevertheless, it is not impossible. And I have not abandoned this idea completely. So may be later I will give it a try.

Maybe I am too optimistic here but the market for the app is local but not small. Let's assume that only 1% of all London's driver would need such up. That is 55 thousand already. Subscription fee in £0.10 per month is £5 500. Not bad, huh? Of course, you will need to spend half of that money to keep the data base up to date.

The nature of information is dynamic, boroughs keep changing them all the time so you will need regular updates either as add ons to native app or as subscriber to web app.

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