Israeli defense engineers create technology for ticket-free parking

The founders want to use their military engineering experience to create smart cities, in which free spaces can be easily identified and paid for, saving drivers time and avoiding fines.

A parking attendant writes a ticket in front of parked cars in Zurich, Switzerland (photo credit: REUTERS/ARND WIEGMANN)
A parking attendant writes a ticket in front of parked cars in Zurich, Switzerland
From Tel Aviv to New York, the painful hunt for city-center parking spots can prove enough to enrage even the most patient drivers among us.
Some reports estimate New York City drivers spend a staggering average of 107 hours – more than four days – searching for parking every year. In some cases, drivers looking for parking spots can even amount to one-third of all urban traffic.
While the nearest vacant parking spot might be just around the corner or located on a parallel street, we still lack the smart-city technologies to find out.
Driven by their own growing frustration over time spent searching for parking and costly tickets, one group of leading Israeli optoelectronic engineers decided to leave high-paying jobs in the defense industry and contribute their military expertise to the civilian sector by tackling their parking problems.
Together, they co-founded Wisesight in 2016, an intelligent-parking technology start-up based near the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Their vision? To make the world of parking far more orderly and create an urban future without parking tickets.
Wisesight CEO Akiva Armon/ Credit LIAT MANDELWisesight CEO Akiva Armon/ Credit LIAT MANDEL
“All the cities in the world have the same desire to be smart cities. We’re talking about the fourth industrial revolution, where everything will be digital,” Wisesight CEO Akiva Armon, a former Duvdevan combat soldier and father of four, told The Jerusalem Post. “Why shouldn’t parking spaces in cities, which constitute 15 to 20% of all urban property, be managed digitally?”
Wisesight’s parking solution requires the installation of simple cameras on streetlight poles, which can identify vacant parking spaces nearby and the identity of parked vehicles. The company connects to smartphone parking applications, widely used by Israeli drivers, to identify whether the driver has paid and to send a text-message reminder if necessary.
After three years of operations, the start-up has already partnered with large Israeli towns, including Kfar Saba and Ashdod, and is starting to implement its technology in Jerusalem, Haifa and Ramat Gan, as well as several American cities, Armon said. “Collaborations have already been rolled out with leading parking apps Pango and Cellopark to enable automatic or easy payment.
“The solution is the shared interest for all of us – drivers and municipalities,” he said. “The municipalities’ reputations are improved as they embrace smart-city technologies, and their income is doubled or tripled just by sending SMS messages to those not paying.”
Given the high turnover of vehicles in each parking spot and limited teams of parking inspectors, Armon said only one out of 20 parking violations are caught by municipalities. Big-data analysis has demonstrated that significantly increasing driver payments through intelligent-parking solutions would far exceed revenue accrued from fines, he said.
“We are creating a situation where the world is simpler for everyone; whoever still doesn’t pay takes a risk,” Armon said. “It’s a victory for the driver, who finds a parking space and doesn’t need to receive a ticket.”
The development of parking-related technologies has largely focused on the ability to identify free spaces, enforcing payments and managing large parking lots. According to Armon, Wisesight is targeting all three aspects, and it “needs to interest” the largest industry players.
“I believe that the largest companies will start approaching us in the coming year,” he said. “What we are doing is a revolution in this field, and we are changing the mindset. It’s going to be very interesting in the near future.”
As Wisesight’s solution gains traction, the company has continued to grow, tripling its size annually since it was established. Today, it employs 15 staff members in Israel, six in the Philippines and has representatives in the United States and Europe.
The technology, Armon said, will remain relevant as autonomous vehicles become a common sight on our roads and smart-city developments transform our cities.
“Autonomous cars also need to park somewhere,” he said. “If we are automatically managing the resource of parking spaces, it helps autonomous vehicles, and we know how to do it. We want to give a service to citizens, to make life simpler and easier.”