Sunderland to test parking app to boost retail

City council plans ‘smart beacon’ pilot, using parking credits on mobile app to encourage more people to use local shops

Sunderland City Council is laying plans for a pilot of a parking app using ‘smart beacon’ technology in an effort to boost retail business in the city.

Car parkIt has joined up with the regeneration body Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID) and The Bridges shopping centre to test the use of ParkingPerx, developed by beacon technology specialist Proxismart.

The organisations are currently running a survey of local drivers to establish how they will test the use of the technology.

Smart beacon, which the company says is similar to Apple’s iBeacon, allows mobile apps on iOS and Android devices to listen for signals from beacons to get a detailed hold on their position and receive hyper-textual content based on the location. It runs on Bluetooth Low Energy, and the beacons are deployed in and around car parks and parking spaces to provide a wireless ‘handshake’ with the
driver’s smartphone.

This makes it possible for retailers who have signed up for the pilot to send smart messages to users when they park their cars nearby.

Credit scheme

The council and its partners are encouraging businesses to sign up to a parking credit scheme, in which drivers are rewarded with discounts on future parking if they spend specified amounts with the retailers. The shopper presents their phone at the till to claim any discounts offered by the retailer and credits that can then be used in other participating shops or for parking fees.

Other features of the app include one touch parking and the ability to extend a stay in a car park without having to return.

Councillor Michael Mordey, Sunderland’s portfolio holder for city services, said: “Sunderland has a wide range of shopping and leisure attractions and this app is an opportunity and incentive to remind people about buying locally and supporting their community.”

Gemma Dishman, marketing and communications manager at Sunderland BID, said: “Once the pilot is complete we hope that more and more retailers will get on board as it is a win/win for everyone. Shoppers can gather credits to use for their parking while merchants can use it as an opportunity to incentivise people to come in to the city centre.”

Image by Colin, CC BY 2.0 through flickr