Losing a ticket in a shopping centre parking lot can be a frustrating and very costly experience. Similarly the ability to exit and have automatic payment is a benefit to the time poor and impatient shopper. Therefore the rollout by major retail property managers such as Westfield of ticketless parking is considered a blessing by many.
That is the good news. The potential downside of the capability is of immediate and considerable concern with a significant risk to Westfield and Scentre, let alone customers. Whilst ticketless parking has been around for a few years, the next step of SMS parking time notification from Westfield Bondi Junction amongst other centres is a concern.
One can register their car, and be sent a text when they arrive to inform them as to the time that the vehicle has arrived, and as a consequence, how much time they will have to park in the centre. So far so good.
The issue is this registration process. Anyone, yes, anyone can register a car license plate to then receive an SMS as to when that vehicle enters the parking station. It is naïve to think that only honest car owners will use this technology. To test that anyone can register a car I have registered my own family cars alongside random cars.
There is no checkpoint to confirm that I am entitled to be connected with the cars. The legal fine print – http://www.westfield.com.au/parking/terms-conditions does nothing to address this issue.
There is nothing to stop a stalker, disgruntled former partner, or any one of a number of nefarious characters from knowing when a vehicle, and by definition, individual has entered a parking station. This can open up the opportunity for considerable individual risk for parkers for example in troubled domestic environments, stalkers to know with more geographic certainty where their prey is and many other negative potential outcomes.
At the same time, the fact that anyone can be informed as to when a car enters a shopping centre knows that an individual is not at their home. If for example, a potential criminal obtains the car registration details of a house they are looking to burgle, knowing when the occupants car has entered the shopping centre car park gives them strong insight into how long they may have to commit any offence.
The other issue is the internal process at Westfield. Where was the red flag that there could be a potential problem. Surely someone in a management role had to be aware of the risk, no matter how small.
The growth and ubiquitous impact of technology and digital innovation is an unstoppable force, and the consequences for society are overwhelmingly positive.
Unfortunately it is a very complicated issue, and the example of Westfield Parking highlights the impacts of unintended consequences. In order to fix this, it is anticipated that Westfield will have to change the registration process to ensure that only rightful owners can register their vehicles and that potentially criminal and disruptive elements are unable to. This is a method of ensuring the full benefits of digital technology and management of unintended consequences.
Furthermore, digital innovation is valuable, but difficult to get right. Skills within the organisation need to change. Pan-industry experience is critical. Good digital implementation needs a team that is able to consider an increasingly broad range of implications, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.
If you require further information, please contact Phil Hassey, Founder capioIT. capioIT is an advisory firm focused on helping organisations to understand emerging technology as the world becomes Digital. Phil may be contacted by the following methods,