Capital Buzz: Colonial driving into digital parking

Georgetown-based Colonial Parking is positioning itself for the digital age.

Last week, family-owned Colonial announced a partnership with ParkMe, a California-based technology company whose app allows drivers in real-time to locate Colonial parking lots, find out if spaces are available and price shop for the best spot.

Colonial is the largest parking company in the Washington region. It manages more than 100,000 spaces in 220 lots and garages.

The Buzz phoned Colonial chief executive Andrew Blair to learn more about the Washington parking scene.

How is technology impacting your business?

By upgrading equipment in 50 locations, we are able to build parking systems that allow customers to enter and exit parking facilities more easily and quickly. It also allows us to reduce or eliminate staffing by connecting those garages to our remote management center in Georgetown through data and voice connection. That allows the customer to push a button at the parking facility and speak to a person who can help them.

What other technologies are coming down the road?

There are other kinds of payment options. In our 50 remotely monitored garages, you pay with a credit card in a machine. It certainly is a trend that is continuing.

We are starting to work on using the same technology that is in our ParkMe app to allow customers to make a courtesy reservation, so they know we are expecting them. Next, we will have technology that allows them to pay in advance.

From there, it won’t be long before we can accept a coupon for your payment. So not only do you have a parking reservation, but it’s already paid.

What will parking look like in 10 years?

The customer will be very connected in advance of getting to the garage. The experience will involve more technology as you park and retrieve your car. It will be virtually cashless. The people you are going to see [in the lots and garages] are more likely to help your experience than handle your money.

Play ball

There are some new faces debuting in Nationals Park on Opening Day, and we aren’t just talking about new center-fielder Denard Spahn. Athletic wear company Under Armour and MedStar Health, the not-for-profit regional health care system, are both advertising on new signage in the outfield.

Under Armour’s logo is strategically placed on the Nationals’ left field wall behind one of its star spokesman, Washington outfielder Bryce Harper. With Harper a pre-season favorite to win baseball’s Most Valuable Player award, Under Armour is betting that zillions of television viewer eyeballs will be on him — and on the athletic wear-maker’s logo.

“We have a lot of confidence in Bryce,” said Matt Mirchin, Under Armour senior vice president for global brand/sports marketing. “He’s got a tremendous amount of potential and he is living up to that early, and we have a significant investment in him.”

The new wall panel in left field is an expansion on a previous relationship between Under Armour and the Nationals, which included tickets, promotions and other signs, none of which are as big as the new one.

“It’s significant and visible,” Mirchin said. “You are not going to miss it when you are watching the game.”

The Buzz hears

Former General Dynamics Executive Vice President Gerard J. DeMuro is getting $1.2 million as he retires from the Falls Church-based company, according to a filing the company made last month. The money includes a $710,000 retirement payment and a $500,000 bonus for his work in 2012. DeMuro was paid at his current salary through the end of March. He is also receiving around $17,000 of financial and tax counseling, according to the filing.

PlaySay, the language-learning upstart that moved to Silicon Valley from the District in February, has been sold to Babbel.com. PlaySay chief executive Ryan Meinzer joins Babbel as a strategic adviser. Terms were not disclosed.

For all you folks who like to travel alone, private equity fundraiser Elizabeth Avery, founder of Kalorama Capital, prepares to launch her e-book titled, “25 Tips for A First Solo Vacation Abroad.” “It synopsizes experiences I have had since a teenager,” said Avery, who recently started a business called Solo Trekker 4 You, a help site for solo travelers. The self-published book is to cost about $4.99.

Factoid of the week

60M gallons. That’s the amount of water that was lost last month when a 54-inch concrete water pipe operated by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission burst on Connecticut Avenue in Montgomery County, sending a geyser 30 feet into the sky. Traffic was backed up for hours and the north lane of Connecticut Avenue was closed. That’s enough water to fill 91 Olympic size swimming pools.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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