Parking tickets go wireless

New wireless ticket-writing technology will allow parking enforcers in cities and schools to get up-to-the-minute updates on the status of tickets.

T2 Systems Inc., a company that creates parking management software, has developed new wireless handheld ticket-writers for parking enforcers to carry so they can send and receive the most current information about parking tickets. The devices communicate through the increasingly popular Wi-Fi wireless network technology.

The University of Arkansas, which tested the equipment in the spring, found that the handhelds made information processing more efficient, said Gary Smith, university director of parking and transit. Previously an officer would leave in the morning with a list of cars that needed to be towed because of unpaid parking tickets. If someone on the list paid a ticket after the officer left, the office needed to call to tell the officer not to tow the car.

With a wireless handheld ticketing system, officials can read updated ticket status online instead of relying on a call from the parking office.

"It absolutely can be a problem if the car gets towed if the person just paid the fine," said Mike Simmons, chairman and chief executive officer of T2. "It's a very, very sensitive issue when that happens, and this technology should help prevent that."

The device also allows officers to enter ticket information online when they issue a ticket. Therefore, if a ticket recipient calls the office with questions about the ticket five minutes after it is issued, officials there can access information about where, why and when it was issued.

Immediately storing information on the server also saves time because field officers do not have to manually enter the information when they come back to the office.

The only problem the University of Arkansas found with the devices was that they only work where a wireless network conforms to the 802.11b standard, commonly known as Wi-Fi. Arkansas' network covers only about two-thirds of the parking lots, Smith said. Many schools share the problem of having no wireless network or an incomplete one.

"I think the way most campuses will start off is having it in select places like the library, union and congregation places where people usually are," said Simmons. "But once you put in nodes, it's much easier to extend the network. All you have to do is put out additional access places in the parking lot."

Arkansas hopes to install the missing access points soon and plans to be using the handhelds again by the spring of 2004, said Smith.

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