How one Japanese startup tackles urban parking woes using smart poles

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(The Bridge) – We are told that one out of five drivers in urban areas in the US is constantly driving in circles hunting for a parking space. As problem solvers, parking-sharing services, such as Akippa in Japan, JustPark and Park Circa in other countries, are emerging.

Released in early November, Ecopa is an Internet of Things (IoT) solution that uses sensor cameras for parking lots. Users can browse spaces before leaving home and book one of them if the parking has a reservation system. Using the mobile app, they can check how long they have parked and how much they have been charged, and even make a payment. Ecopa does not require car-locking units typical in Japan. Ecopa does not adopt a flapping metal plate to trap a vehicle, which is typical for wheel blocking in the parking lot but sometimes annoy the drivers by damaging their cars or making them struggle to park in the right position.

Ecopa installs in each parking lot a pole with a built-in camera and sensors that can read a license number on the plate. These poles enable drivers to see the on their smartphones how many lots are available in real-time. With a patented technology that can read license plates, eCoPA also serves as a security system to prevent unpaid parking. Compared with a conventional parking system having the aforementioned locking units, Ecopa saves space owners some 40 percent in the initial cost if they install the system in parking lots accommodating 7 vehicles.


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In November, two companies decided to adopt the Ecopa system. S-cubism Technology, the Japanese startup behind the system, aims to install it in 100 parking lots in a year. To bring adequate traffic to Ecopa-installed parking lots, the company plans to distribute information to mobile car-navigation or map apps.

Masanori Takeshita, President of S-cubism Technology, says:

Currently, Times and Mitsui’s Repark are the only car-parking brands in Japan that provide apps for drivers to find parking spaces using mobile map apps. Ecopa provides a parking system at a reasonable price. We will help smaller parking lot operators, who have a limited budget for IT investment, publish their available spaces online and get drivers to find them.

Tekeshita developed Ecopa because he found it difficult himself to search out a parking space when he drove with his family to parks, supermarkets or other places, as car parks of those facilities were often full. He could release Ecopa thanks to declining costs of cameras and sensors as the IoT is growing fast.

A conventional parking system usually costs millions of yen to implement car-locking units and automated pay stations. But Ecopa requires only 120,000 yen ($1,000) for a pole, plus an installation fee starting at 200,000 yen ($1,600) for integrating with the mobile app and the cloud system. Ecopa enables landowners to use even their small spaces effectively.

Translated by Shinobu Ishikawa, edited by “Tex” Pomeroy










Police investigating ‘Ugliest Girls’ poll

Police are now investigating a case of cyberbullying involving an anonymous online poll ranking girls at a high school based on their looks, but legal experts say a criminal conviction is unlikely. Lynelle Cantwell, a student at Holy Trinity High School in Torbay, N.L., received national attention and support after she took to Facebook this week to denounce the "Ugliest Girls in Grade 12" poll and its creators in a post that has been shared thousands of times.

The STEM Skills Gap Is Only As Real As The Purple Unicorn

pegasus TEKsystems recently put out a report showing that approximately 80 percent of all IT professionals believe that a skills gap exists in tech industries today. Backed by claims of mass projected growth in the field that the U.S. won’t be able to fill, as well as multiple articles and resources written on how to bridge the gap, it’s hard to argue that it’s not real. Obviously,… Read More

Samsung to finally pay Apple $548 million in patent dispute

NEW YORK: Samsung fought until the bitter end to avoid paying Apple, but the company now says it will finally hand over the more than $548 million it owes for infringing the patents and designs of its biggest smartphone rival. In papers filed in federal court in San Jose, California on Thursday, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd said it will make the payment by Dec. 14 if Apple Inc sends an invoice on Friday.

The New American Dream: My Life As A Minority Startup Owner    

paths My life can be split into two halves, each fulfilling an American dream. The first half I spent on the American dream that was engrained from birth — “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” The second, current half of my life revolves around an American dream that has arisen from our technocratic society — “start your own business.” Every statistic on the… Read More

This Chrome extension moves Twitter’s Moments tab back where it belongs

I sincerely apologize for the Twitter rage

Okay, maybe I came off a bit strong there with that headline. Let’s start over.

In October, Twitter released a feature called Moments, a collection of tweets designed to make sense of Twitter’s chaos for the next wave (?) of users. It’s full of news, photos, sports, sponsored content, Star Wars, and other wonderful things. It’s a lot like Snapchat Stories. Instagram is doing something like it, too. And it all makes sense, really.

Twitter is a social network in constant disorder and that’s what makes it great. But the service is difficult to parse. So while “power” users may love it, new users appear put off by the whole thing. Unfortunately, power users (myself included), tend to panic when we encounter change.

So, while I could have simply waited a few days to get used to Twitter’s decision to swap its Notifications tab with its Moments tab (as a friend of mine suggested), I didn’t. I panicked, briefly, and other people panicked with me, after repeatedly clicking the Moments tab by mistake. I’ve had a long day.

If you can’t stand the change, here’s your (almost certainly temporary fix): Another friend of mine, Cullen MacDonald, whipped up this Chrome extension which puts the Notifications tab back in its former spot. You’re welcome, and sorry.










Mozilla ends Tiles experiment for ads in Firefox, will shift focus to ‘content discovery’

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Mozilla is stopping its experiment to offer advertising in Firefox. The company announced its focus will instead shift to “content discovery” opportunities in its browser.

This is an important distinction because since this summer, Firefox has been promoting three types of Tiles: content from Mozilla (such as campaigns on policy issues), publisher content, and advertising. Mozilla’s Directory Tiles program is designed to “improve the first-time-with-Firefox experience” — instead of seeing blank tiles when a new Firefox user opens a new tab, Mozilla thought it would be best that they see “content.”

Mozilla thus appears happy to continue the Suggested Tiles program without the advertising component. Here’s the company’s explanation as to why that is:


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Advertising in Firefox could be a great business, but it isn’t the right business for us at this time because we want to focus on core experiences for our users. We want to reimagine content experiences and content discovery in our products. We will do this work as a fully integrated part of the Firefox team.

We believe that the advertising ecosystem needs to do better – we believe that our work in our advertising experiments has shown that it can be done better. Mozilla will continue to explore ways to bring a better balance to the advertising ecosystem for everyone’s benefit, and to build successful products that respect user privacy and deliver experiences based upon transparency, choice and control.

In other words, Mozilla has realized that it doesn’t make sense to offer Firefox features like tracking protection, which blocks website elements (ads, analytics trackers, and social share buttons) that could track you while you’re surfing the web, while also pushing ads. Even if they’re ads that don’t track you, this is a confusing message to send the reader.

Directory Tiles are basically sponsored content, and were Mozilla’s first initiative to bring advertising to Firefox users. Suggested Tiles go a step further since they are based on what sites users had visited (“Suggested for wiki.mozilla.org visitors.”), though they only show up a fixed number of times before they’re automatically removed.

08-Current-On-boarding-Complete

News of Mozilla’s plan to sell ads in Firefox first broke back in February 2014. In August, the company rolled out the feature to the Firefox Nightly channel, and in November, it arrived in the stable version of Firefox. In 2015, the company started to look at the best ways to scale Tiles to the entire Firefox population.

And after all that, the project was deemed unworthy.

Mozilla today thanked its advertising partners for Tiles and promised to fulfill all “current commitments.” Though the company didn’t provide a date, it did say the advertising experiment will wind down “over the next few months.”

More information:

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What Facebook Live Video could mean for marketers

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Facebook today announced its entry into the growing world of live video, and this could eventually have big implications for marketers.

Facebook is just now starting to roll out Live Video to millions of regular users, after letting users with verified accounts (many of them celebrities) try it out first.

So right now brands aren’t involved but they very well might be in the latter part of 2016. Facebook is likely to spend the next year tweaking and stabilizing the feature, paying close attention to how many people use it, how often, and for how long. The feature is baked into the main Facebook mobile, not broken off into a separate app like Messenger, and this should increase user uptake.

Facebook could open Live Video to brands by extending the feature to Pages.

Brands are already using Periscope and Meerkat as new way of telling their stories to a younger, mobile crowd. Several of these brands displayed their live video work in a panel at ad tech last month.

But so far many of these live streaming services seem like one-to-many mass broadcasting. Sure viewers can make comments, but the interaction is pretty much limited to that, while engagement tracking and targeting functionality just isn’t there yet. That’s why Facebook’s (predictable) entry into the space could end up being a game changer.

Facebook has some of the best data scientists in the world. It also has lots of existing systems for fine segmentation and audience targeting, as well as analytics engines to gauge engagement and performance.

This is the kind of thing that Facebook may be able to bring to the branding side of live video — something that platforms with less experience with marketers might not be able to offer.

Facebook also has a huge reach, and to a much more varied audience. The research says that mobile users spend 82 percent of their time in apps, and the Facebook app is the one in which users spend the most time.

In August, Periscope said it had picked up 10 million users in four and a half months. My guess is that Facebook could pick up live video users even faster.