Interview with Bertrand Barthelemy, CEO of the Flowbird Group

Interview with Bertrand Barthelemy, CEO of the Flowbird Group

Pascal Burg
June 5, 2018

Pascal Burg, EDC Director based in Paris met with Bertrand Barthelemy, CEO of the Flowbird Group, formed out of the merger of world's two leading payment companies, Parkeon and Cale, specialising in parking and transport ticketing solutions.

How do you see payments in parking evolving? Will they become invisible / take place behind the scenes?

Flowbird provides fully automated parking payment services for parking environments. It is possible in gated environments, where we can monitor entry and exit by license plate recognition to undertake fully automated / invisible payments. The payment is made in the cloud; the driver just gets a payment alert / reminder on his in-car display. Of course, certain conditions must be met. The car must be connected to the service, the car park operator must be a partner, and a license plate recognition camera should be installed. Aligning all the stakeholders can take a long time and is complex. It will take time for it to be rolled out on a global basis.

For non-gated environments, such as on-street parking, the same technology will work. The car would connect to the parking meter by bluetooth or NFC and a fee could be applied. The main issue, in this case, is the diversity of situations on-street where tariffs can change from one location to another, from one side of the street to the other.

Do you think credit / debit cards will continue to dominate or will there be alternative payment instruments in the future especially for transport and parking?

In the parking environment, payment by card is the most popular in gated environments. It will continue to be so. Mobile is not very popular, except when it is used as an "identifier" (using NFC, bluetooth, QRcode) like license plate recognition. Flowbird manages events in Sacramento in California for example, where pre-booked parking payments are managed via QR codes significantly resolving traffic congestion problems. For on-street parking, contactless car payments are quick and very popular with customers. Mobile Payments are also growing in popularity. Now, for public transport, the trend is not mobile but contactless bankcards, used both for identification and for payments. This is what we call Open payment.

How will the advent of driverless vehicles and ride-sharing services impact the parking industry in the future?

The impact will be significant. With fewer cars parked on-street or in parking lots and more cars on the road. There will be issues accessing on-street delivery destinations (Internet purchases) or the car stopping to pick up a passenger for ridesharing services. Electric vehicle charging will be complex to manage too. A combination of parking and charging will have to be worked out. It is probable that parking fees, as well as charging fees, will be applied for charging locations. Some parking lots will be dedicated to autonomous cars (different widths, different layouts), less downtown, but slightly outside in order to park the cars outside of peak hours. The impact on traffic could be unexpected and could increase traffic jams if not well designed.

What do you do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?

Most of all, I spend time with my family as I spend a lot of time visiting clients around the world. I love teaching reading to my young son. I also do a lot of sports - running, horseback riding and Pilates with my wife. I am also designing a nice country garden.

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