The time when drivers were forced to search for coins while queuing in the rain for a parking machine are long gone. Parking providers across the world are moving towards a digital-first parking experience. Today drivers can pay in a few convenient taps from their phones while sitting in their cars. At the forefront of this revolution is the Swiss market leader Digitalparking AG, and at the heart of its solution is Aiven.
Digitalparking is a Swiss, family-run company with a rich heritage of acquisitions and parking innovation. It claims Switzerland’s first coin-operated parking meter from 1956 as an important part of its history as well as the first mobile application for cashless parking launched in 2008. As its name suggests, today the company is focused on digital payment solutions for parking. Its popular Parkingpay app enables cashless, ticketless parking in over 750 locations in cities, shopping centres, hospitals and multi-storey car parks across Switzerland.
According to Reto Schläpfer, CEO and CTO at Digitalparking: “Parking lot operators in Switzerland have it good. We provide them with complete onstreet and offstreet solutions which makes parking easy for them to manage and much more convenient for drivers. It’s our mission to make parking as quick and easy as possible for everyone.”
In addition to the initial cost of buying the parking meters, there are ongoing costs associated with emptying and maintaining them. For cost-conscious municipalities, the largest providers of offstreet parking, Digitalparking provides a cheaper option as well as extras such as handling the administration of parking permits.
As a result, increasing numbers of municipalities and car park owners now rely on Digitalparking. The company has created APIs to enable motorists to pay via leading mobile payment providers like TWINT for added convenience. As a result, more and more motorists use the Parkingpay app. For Digitalparking, this means more users, more transactions and a lot more data.
When the company started transitioning to a digital-first offering, it chose PostgreSQL® as its primary database because of its reliability, feature robustness and performance. As an open source technology, it also provided Digitalparking the freedom to modify the software in line with the company’s needs.
As the Digitalparking business has evolved, the variety and volume of data stored in PostgreSQL has grown. “Initially we managed the PostgreSQL servers ourselves, but we reached a point when our small team couldn’t operate at the scale required. The data was too important and too big for us to handle so we started to look at fully managed services,” explains Schläpfer.
At that time, Digitalparking was migrating its IT infrastructure from virtual machines rented from Swiss providers over to Google Cloud to resolve ongoing network and disc I/O issues. “When we realized that Aiven services ran on Google Cloud, and that it offered Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) peering, Aiven became the obvious choice. A couple of months after migrating to Google Cloud, we started using Aiven for PostgreSQL®,” says Schläpfer.
Thanks to the ease of use and speed of set-up, Digitalparking completed the migration in two weeks, with no service interruption and no support required from Aiven.
Today the PostgreSQL database remains at the heart of the Digitalparking offering. It stores the large volume of financial transaction details generated via the Parkingpay app including licence plate numbers, time/place and payment details. At the end of the month, based on this information, Digitalparking pays the collected parking fees to the car park owners while keeping a small portion as its renumeration.
The database also holds parking meter configuration data — the meters regularly connect to Digitalparking IT for software and system updates — as well as parking permit data and reporting information accessed by car park owners. PostgreSQL integrates with PostGIS where Digitalparking stores geographical data about the different parking locations including details on parking zones, the number of spaces and so on which enables mapping functionality.
Since using Aiven for PostgreSQL, Digitalparking is realizing more value from the open source solution and is achieving superior levels of scalability, performance and reliability. “PostgreSQL is now run by Aiven experts. As a result, we’ve never lost any data, version upgrades are seamless and security patching that used to take a day is completed with the click of a button. The inhouse team can now focus on their core job — providing more value to our customers,” says Schläpfer.
“PostgreSQL is now run by Aiven experts. As a result, we’ve never lost any data, version upgrades are seamless and security patching that used to take a day is completed with the click of a button. The inhouse team can now focus on their core job — providing more value to our customers,”
The value goes beyond technical impact — with Aiven managing the database, Digitalparking has reduced business risks. “If the database isn’t working, Digitalpayments can’t operate. It’s as simple as that,” says Schläpfer. “It’s a big responsibility we’ve given to Aiven and we absolutely trust the team to deliver. Aiven is a key partner in helping us pursue our mission of easy parking for all.”
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