[As seen at JNL Parking and reprinted with permission. Disclaimer: "JNL Parking is not a registered stock broker nor are we soliciting investments for SyncPark. Our article is purely informative and we were not compensated for this article."]
After escaping from the island of Elba in 1815, Napoleon landed on the shores of France in the middle of the night. He marched unarmed on the capital of his homeland, where thousands of people and soldiers dropped at his feet and joined him on his march to Paris. Upon hearing that Napoleon had retaken the capital without firing a single shot, the European countries immediately labeled him an “outlaw” and quickly formed a coalition to defeat him.
Napoleon quickly went on the offensive and decided to attack the British at Waterloo, but due to rainy weather in the days before, decided to park his troops and wait “for the boots to dry”. This was a fatal mistake that ended in his defeat, eventual isolation, and finally death at St. Helena.
In our periodic series of industry leaders and innovators, we try to focus on people or companies that are at the forefront of parking. In this series, we highlight a company named SyncPark who has the potential to revolutionize parking as we know it today, and may offer an interesting opportunity for some investors to get in at the very early stage of this start-up.
Meet Andrew Hayes, the CEO of SyncPark, (JD from Columbia) who could be considered “a parking outlaw”. His company will soon develop automated parking garages that will require no human intervention and will be able to retrieve customers’ vehicles in less than 39 seconds.
In fact, his company has developed patented technology that uses electromagnets to slide car pallets around in precise, synchronized routes within a grid. It's like sliding puzzle pieces around that move up and down as well as across and over. The technology can be constructed at about $10,000 less per space than your typical parking garage (depending on the location), will require no human labor, and can operate at around $200 per space per year versus the traditional cost of $600 for current parking structures. It is a new technology that is ready to take-off in this country, and JNL Parking has an exclusive for its members.
I recently caught up with Mr. Hayes and had a chance to ask him a few questions about his company.
There are already automated parking technologies in the market; what makes your company any different?
We are the only company that uses electromagnets to move pallets. We put a set of these electromagnets in a steel box, under each pallet space, so we are not limited to a few rows of pallets off a central aisle. We can have ten or more rows of pallets off one aisle. By synchronizing the signals between the different sets of magnets, we can move multiple pallets at the same time, with incredible precision, giving us much faster storage and retrieval times.
Why has this country been reluctant to adopt automated parking systems, given that the costs can be lower to construct than your traditional parking deck?
Design and software problems in early garages gave the industry a bad reputation. Many companies are franchisees of foreign manufacturers for whom parking is not their main focus. There's concern about maintenance costs. And frankly, the technical limitations of most of the existing technology have limited their market. Americans have big garages, and to replace them with automation you need a system that can move dozens, if not hundreds, of pallets at the same time.
It would appear that maintenance costs would be astronomical for such a system. Is this a correct assumption?
Precisely the opposite. The electromagnets are in self-contained steel boxes. They can operate underwater, or in rain and snow. The only thing that moves in our garages are the wheels on the pallets. There are no gears, no belts, no levers, no pulleys.
The software is monitored remotely, in real time, by the engineers at their head office. They use less power to move the pallets than other automation systems. That's why our operating and our maintenance costs are so much lower than other systems.
It is everyone's fear that if they park in an automated garage that it will take too long to retrieve their vehicle, that they will get the wrong vehicle back, and that their vehicle could be stuck there for days if there is a mechanical failure. Is this a case of, "We heard the same thing with Netflix, Amazon, and Apple" or are these legitimate concerns?
People are skeptical until they come to the engineer's shop and see a dozen different prototypes, of all shapes and sizes, in action. Everyone who has seen the shop - even cynical parking industry consultants - has come away convinced that we can deliver on what we promise.
Where and when will the first fully functional model be?
The engineers are going to build and test a full-size, full-feature garage in their shop in Devens, MA. That way, we will be sure that everything works flawlessly before we serve our first customer.
Is your company a publicly traded company?
As an early start-up, are there any opportunities for investors to invest in SyncPark?
Developing infrastructure systems is capital-intensive. We are always looking to work with well-qualified partners.
We currently have an opening for Chief Legal Council at JNL Parking. Can we interest you, or are you 100% convinced that you are part of a system that will revolutionize parking?
Sorry, it's my new full-time job to convince everyone else in the industry that our technology is the wave of the future.
Even though our job offer was flat-out rejected by Mr. Hayes, we still believe that SyncPark will be the industry leader in automated parking garages and hope that he will take our advice to aggressively take his technology to the competition instead of “waiting for the boots to dry.”