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« Hard work on the right things | Main | The quickest way to get things done and make change »

Digital analogs are no longer sufficient

ParkingmeterThe parking meter was rebooting. I guess we're supposed to walk to the other end of the garage and find one that's working.

We're seeing digital awareness coming to just about everything. In this case, it was the parking meter near the library. Of course, it's not really a parking meter, it's a centralized fee collection system that saves the town a lot of money. It's easier to collect from, certainly, it doesn't waste the time of meter readers (who get alerted as to what spaces aren't paid for, as opposed to checking them all) plus it doesn't let a new parker enjoy a few minutes of the last person's payment.

I understand how the incremental sale of this device was easier to maket to the town and to the community. It's just like what we have now, but better.

The problem, of course, is that it's not as better as it could be. Just about every traditional non-digital solution is bounded by the limits of mechanics. Once we start connecting (and the connection revolution won't rest until it's all connected) then the problem can be reset--we can find the best solution, not a better way to solve it the old way.

Why do I have to guess how long I'm going to be parking? Why pay a penalty if I underguess, or waste community resources on patrolling for compliance?

Of course, I don't care much about parking meters. I care a lot about using digital shadows of real world devices because we don't have the imagination to reinvent them.

In this particular case: why bother have a meter at all? After all, the state knows my license plate, the state has a billing relationship with me, the state can (and does) collect money for my driving behaviors (like EZ Pass). So why not drive into the space and have the space just take care of all the paperwork and billing? No tickets, no meter readers. If you don't want local merchants to park in the good spaces, no need to spend a lot of time searching them out...

Instinctually, we want to maintain the hunter/prey relationship of the independent citizen who isn't being snooped on. But you know what? You're already being snooped on, ceaselessly. A parking meter isn't your problem.

Obviously, parking meters aren't the important device here. The connection revolution is going to upend the way we understand the where, who, how much and when of everything around us.

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