Belgium presented NOW! Innovations with an early opportunity to demonstrate the simplicity and effectiveness of its mobile payment solution for on‑street parking.
GAPA, the parking authority for the city of Antwerp, launched a pilot programme in 2004 to test the practicality of using a mobile phone as a payment method for various parking schemes.
In March 2006, NOW! Innovations won the challenge to provide an open mobile parking solution in partnership with parking operator APCOA Belgium and mobile network Proximus. It meant that any subscriber of Belgium’s leading mobile network could start ‘mobile parking’ whenever they wanted without prior registration.
Antwerp’s mobile parking system started off with simple and user-friendly SMS parking. To start or stop a parking session, drivers just needed to send a text message containing the zone code from the parking sign and their vehicle registration number. The system automatically calculated the exact duration of the parking session and the required fee.
If the driver chose not to end the session, the system would automatically do this when the maximum parking duration for the zone was reached. A driver would also receive a text message to warn if their parking session was about to expire.
Parking fees could either be paid as a part of the user’s mobile phone bill or as a separate monthly invoice. Each user was given an online password that allowed them to set preferences, see their parking history and arrange payment.
Parking wardens used dedicated handheld devices for on-street enforcement. The devices had a GPRS (mobile data) connection to the NOW! Innovations database, with the registration numbers of the parked cars used as unique IDs. The database returned real-time information about whether or not a customer had paid for parking. NOW! Innovations took care of all back‑office integration, which meant the local municipality only needed to issue parking wardens with handheld devices and inform local residents about the new service.
The service launched in Antwerp with approximately 20,000 on‑street parking spaces provisioned for mobile payments. After operating for just 18 months, mobile parking was generating more than 20% of parking revenue. By September 2010, shortly before NOW! Innovations sold its operations in Belgium, its mobile parking platform was being used by more than 50,000 users