Open Innovation Hackathon Results in an App to Cut Parking Fines
A novel app that uses image recognition technology to decipher confusing parking signs.
Confusing parking signs can leave people out of pocket with fines. Unable to decipher them and unaware of a locale’s parking restrictions they unintentionally park illegally incurring fines that could have been avoided.
That was the experience of Sam Pinner when he moved to Melbourne from London and was hit with a parking fine almost immediately. That incident led to his developing of an app that uses image recognition technology to make sense of parking signs.
His innovation won the Melbourne Knowledge Week Open Innovation Challenge 2019, picking up $20,000 to further develop the technology.
This annual contest invites innovators to submit ideas to solve a city issue. The theme of the 2019 open innovation challenge was safe mobility, a search for new ways to improve safety for the city's 920,000 daily visitors and residents. It focused on four opportunity areas: public spaces, transportation, city disruption and the city at nighttime.
Following the submission period, an independent panel of judges selected six finalists to take part in a pitch event after which Pinner's Can-I-Park app was declared the winner. In addition to its ability to make parking signs less puzzling, there is also a very important safety aspect to the app.
When Pinner received the fine that served as the inspiration for the app he was parked on a clearway, an area where vehicles are not permitted to park during certain times. He didn’t realize until then the effect of his parking on the traffic. Cars were forced to merge dangerously into one lane, and cyclists were also having to swerve into traffic. He was taken aback.
With the app, users take a picture of the parking sign and the technology works out whether they can park there and if so for how long. This should stop any illegal parking from being hazardous to other road users.
Pinner says he has no experience of technology development and his startup is working with an image recognition specialist in the UK.
As well as the cash prize Pinner picked up a number of useful contacts and won placements at the Melbourne Accelerator Program’s early-stage incubator called Velocity and at a social innovation workshop at Central Queensland University.
Turning Ideas into Action
With the prize money from the open innovation challenge the app's development can move forward. Pinner is aiming to launch his app sooner rather than later, but this may be dependent on whether he needs to raise investment. His plan is to engage with councils across the state of Victoria and the rest of the country as well as mentors and marketing specialists to ensure that uptake is quick.
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