Parking the masses

May 2002 Access Control & Identity Management

In order to stay ahead in the increasingly competitive retail arena, large retail centres have to streamline and maximise on every facet of the modern shopping experience. The Menlyn Park Shopping Centre in Pretoria, one of the largest retail projects to be undertaken in recent times, is no exception. For this reason, it was deemed necessary to implement a top of the range parking management system.

The contract for the parking system was awarded to Aludi Technologies late in 1999, and with a value of R10,4 million, is the largest shopping centre pay-on-foot (POF) parking contract ever awarded in South Africa. Aludi Technologies is a specialist in systems integration and combines all aspects of integrated parking management, closed circuit television, access control, fire control and security management into one complete solution.

The system

The parking system at Menlyn boasts software innovations that are a first in the world. But it is not on this merit alone that makes the Menlyn parking system unique; the sheer size of the installation is a feat in itself.

63-networked devices complete the POF system, starting with 22 auto-pay stations conveniently placed throughout the complex. There are also four manual cashiers available. The balance of the equipment is made up of the ticket dispensers and validators found at all the entry and exit points to the parking as well as readers at the tenant parking areas.

The entire POF system is run on a central server, which stores all transactional data in MS Access format. The management station allows full control and interrogation of the parking system based on built-in and third party reporting software.

Special developments

The unique feature of the Menlyn parking system, designed and tailored by Aludi at the request of centre developers, is the ticket revalidation (TRV) system. The TRV system, in a nutshell, allows multiple parking area tariffs to be accumulated and then charged to the client at the end of their stay.

Free parking is only extended to the uncovered parking area, and should a customer decide to move to the covered parking area, the ticket that was initially received at the perimeter dispenser is re-inserted into a validatior, which will encode the entry time and parking lot number onto the magstripe of the ticket. The customer can then roam between the open and structured parking up to six times in one visit. At the end of the visit, the ticket is inserted into an auto-pay station, the total number of hours spent in the structured or covered parking is calculated and the client is charged accordingly.

A second development that was designed with Menlyn Park in mind is Aludi's voice annunciation system. This allows for the downloading of up to four voice advertisements to any of the entrance dispensers or exit validators that can be played back to customers on entering or exiting the centre.

These messages can be anywhere between 3 and 24 seconds in length, and may range from a standard welcome greeting to the latest specials at a tenant's store.

Drive-in parking

A unique feature of Menlyn Park is that it is the first shopping centre in the country to boast its own drive-in, situated on the upper level. A customer is able to first shop at the centre and then proceed to the drive-in, or proceed straight to the drive-in, as they wish. At the entrance to the drive-in is a manual cashier station, which records the incurred parking fee and then charges a flat rate to enter. In essence, the client that did the shopping first is getting the shopping portion of their parking for free.

The reason that the incurred fee is recorded is to check whether there is abuse of the system, by means of parkers leaving their cars for several days and then going to the drive-in to avoid the accumulated parking costs.

Other projects

Included in the POF system that was installed by Aludi was a full CCTV and intercom system, which is normally installed as standard with any POF system.

40 closed circuit television cameras were installed throughout the complex, which are used extensively in helping clients that are experiencing difficulty with the POF system but mainly to prevent crime and vandalism. Due to the length of the cable runs the entire system is fibre reticulated, with the system being controlled in the parking office with three 16 channel matrixes and six monitors. All 40 cameras are recorded using time-lapse technology on four VCRs.

The Intercom system used for communication between the control room, the POF devices and the security personnel is a fully digital system from Techring.

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