Drifter World: Revolutionizing Parking, Payments & EV Charging

Smart parking and smart cities

According to the European Parking Association, there are more than 47 million regulated parking spaces, with just over 30 million off-street, and nearly 17 million on-street. That might sound like a lot of parking spaces, but while 68% of land in cities is devoted to parking spaces, drivers still spend an average of seventeen hours every year looking for a place to park their car. And with the huge growth in electric vehicle (EV) ownership, people are spending more time in parking spaces as they wait for their vehicle to charge.

Drifter World is a Swedish technology company that is using its passion for bringing practical solutions to not just parking and EV charging, but to the larger smart city ecosystem. At its core, the Drifter World solution optimizes the usage of parking spaces, while also reducing administrative tasks for property owners. It also works with electric vehicle (EV) charging spaces, ensuring that you can charge your car while it is parked – and it deploys sensors that can measure things like air quality, sound levels and even traffic flow.

At the heart of Drifter’s solution is the Drifter Box, an AI driven IoT box that automates the parking experience by ‘reading’ the whole parking space and removing the need for manual controls. In practice, this means it ‘reads’ license plates and starts a session as soon as you park your car, then ends the session when you leave, so you no longer have to start a session on a parking app, put coins in a meter, or take a ticket on your way in and pay on your way out. Instead, you have several payment options: use the Drifter World app, scan a QR code and pay via your phone, or an invoice will be sent automatically.

The big difference between Drifter and other systems is that other systems only read entries and exits, while Drifter reads parking space by parking space. This removes the need to have someone walking around putting tickets on cars if they overstay or if they haven’t paid. Everything is automated.

Fredrik Durling CEO & Founder, Drifter World

“Additionally, if you park in a restricted spot, we can note that, so if someone parks a fossil fuel car in a space that is reserved for EV charging or maybe someone who shouldn’t parks in a handicap space, we will know. We don’t give tickets, though, we raise the price – or in the case of a caravan parking across 9 spots, we charge for 9 spots.”

Drifter World works with a number of different players, including office parking, parking garage,s and parking lots. A lot of office buildings have reserved parking for employees and outside of office hours those parking spaces often sit empty.

“We can optimize those parking spaces and charging stations for companies,” says Fredrik Durling. “So, they’re assigned to employees during working hours, but then we open them up for others outside of those times. This is vital for cities all over the world because we know that every city in the world has parking problems.”

While other players working with parking have already tried to optimize spaces, automating through the use of AI and IoT allows integration in a way we haven’t seen before. If we look at, for example, municipal parking, there are other challenges.

“Municipalities are very siloed in terms of departments and how they work,” says Fredrik Durling. “We’re trying to bring together parking and EV charging, but that often involves two or more different departments, so getting them all in the room and agreeing on how to best optimize parking and EV charging can be challenging. They want to see it working first and at this stage they prefer to handle parking challenges themselves. The problem is that they aren’t handling it, and they aren’t seeing the possibilities that technology brings.”

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There is a fear of integrating solutions, instead of taking the bold step to have a true smart city experience. We can connect the dots with other players and help create that real smart city ecosystem.

The Drifter World app tells drivers where to find available parking spaces, but it also benefits EV drivers looking for parking spaces with available EV charging stations. In practice, this could mean that at one parking lot there are, just say, five cars waiting to charge, while at another parking lot close by, there are available EV charging spaces. The EV driver can check availability on the Drifter app and save themselves a lot of hassle.

Drifter World does not own the EV charging stations – the charging stations have been sold to the property owner, which presents its own challenge.

“Often, the EV charging companies think if they lose the app, they lose the customer, but we see it differently,” says Fredrik Durling. “If we work together, we can keep the customer together, doing different parts of the solution. The data we collect can be shared by both of us – we just use it for different purposes.”

Data and insights

Environmental data is collected from all parking spaces, meaning Drifter World know which model of car is using a parking spot, or why one parking spot is used more than another, as well as air quality and sound levels. The company also connects with energy companies and property owners. Property owners in particular have been able to see the benefits of the Drifter World solution, because through digitalizing their parking spaces they still get their income while no longer needing manual controls.

“Every parking spot has sensors measuring all of these things in real time and sends it to the property owner,” says Fredrik Durling. “This is very attractive to private property companies – they make more money per parking spot annually because it’s just one AI/IoT system that removes a lot of the middlemen.”

Regulations, particularly within the EU, are going to continue to get tougher and this means cities will need to show environmental improvements over time. The Drifter World solution has the tools to provide data that validates improvements, both in real time and historically, when it comes to sustainability.

“If you don’t have the tools to measure, you aren’t going to make it,” says Fredrik Durling. “You need to measure things in a proper way that is verifiable and parking spots are a great place to start. We can generate reports to validate improvements and where improvements are needed – basically we can give a report about nearly anything.”

Data can be shared with cities and towns to understand things like traffic flows, while for parking companies this data can help them optimize the number of handicap spaces or EV charging spaces. The data will give them the insights they need to know exactly how to best serve their customers and it can lead to more unsiloing of the smart city ecosystem.”

“We can also lead traffic in many parts of the city, so when you have your GPS on, we can tell you this parking lot is full, this one has available spaces. This helps ease traffic because you have less people driving around. It could also help governments understand how people are using their vehicles.

“Sensors can also be put in roundabouts and at tolls and other areas and learn what kinds of cars are coming in and out of the city and how much emissions are being released. We can build environmental zones that allow only certain types of cars can park in certain areas to reduce emissions – and while we can’t punish someone that has a big gas-guzzling vehicle, you can be rewarded for choosing a more environmentally friendly one.”

Security is always crucial when dealing with data. Customer credit card details are always stored in the app. All security is in the Drifter Box, so pictures and other information are only stored in there. The Drifter Box is updating regularly, and the company uses a VPN to transfer data. AI is handling everything on the spot and Drifter World doesn’t ‘see’ cars unless there is a complaint – then they go in and extract the necessary information.

In the Drifter World solution, an AI motor is connected to a picture sensor, which never streams – it just captures images and reads the flow of the parking spot. It never takes a picture of an individual; instead, it reads how many people, how many cars, here comes a delivery truck, a garbage truck – it learns from the many different sessions that actually occur at any particular parking spot, and it learns something new every day.

Why Tele2 IoT?

“We chose Tele2 IoT because some vendors didn’t look into us as a company and what we are trying to do – they didn’t care, they just wanted the sale,” says Fredrik Durling. “Then we started talking to Tele2 IoT and our salesman said, ‘We can do this together and we can do so much for each other – and if you grow, we grow.’ Also, Tele2 IoT is really into IoT and the possibilities it brings, so the company acts as a real partner. Tele2 IoT is the only one doing IoT for real. Other vendors have an IoT offering, but Tele2 IoT is driven and engaged in the IoT space.”

The future

Drifter World has been live since October 2022 and currently operates in Sweden and Norway. With expansion into other countries in the roadmap, handling payments will mean adjusting to local conditions. In Sweden, transferring money digitally is usually done through the Swish app and in Norway it’s Vipps, while in the US, Venmo is a big player.

“In general, when we enter a new market well have all the usual big payment solutions, like Paypal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, and then we add the local ones that are most used,” says Fredrik Durling. “When it comes to things like rental companies, we can run payments through them as well, so when you’re traveling you don’t need to worry about having the right app. Having a universal solution removes a lot of challenges.

“One of the biggest challenges we have is keeping up with demand, which is not a bad challenge to have, so in general we’re happy with how things are ramping up and the future.”

When it comes to expansion in general, the biggest challenge for Drifter World is that different countries have different ways of ticketing cars. In some countries it’s police who give parking tickets, in others it’s parking companies.

“When it’s the police it’s a bigger challenge to integrate, but once they realize that having the Drifter World solution frees up police resources to address more urgent and important matters, it becomes a very easy and obvious solution to embrace. I mean, do you want police checking that someone overstayed their time in a parking space or do you want them out catching criminals?

“Everyone today want a seamless digital experience – Drifter World is a strong solution that can help bring that together across the smart city ecosystem.”

Drifter World will be appearing at IoT Talks 2023 – Through the IoT Looking Glass on the 29th of November. You can register for the digital show here. 

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