Parking rewards startup Parkt is integrating bitcoin into its system, allowing users to withdraw earned reward points directly to a bitcoin wallet.
"What really annoys people about parking is paying for it," said Parkt CEO Tim Karunaratne, noting that the average American spends about $1,300 a year doing just that. "The system is pay-to-spend," he added.
works with mobile apps on devices used by both customers and businesses. Customers first use it to scan a QR code when they check their car into a parking garage, and the app then displays a list of businesses in the local area that participate in the scheme.
When spending money at a participating business, the customer scans another QR code which adds dollar-value reward points to their account. Businesses set their own spending thresholds for rewards – for example, $3 for $50 spent.
Customers can accrue rewards from multiple businesses. They then redeem those points to gain a discount on their parking fees, or can withdraw them immediately in bitcoin.
Parkt does not feature built-in bitcoin storage, so users will still need to choose their own third-party wallet and enter its address into the Parkt app.
In order to pay out rewards to users, Parkt will need to collect fees from businesses who hope to earn extra revenue from the increased customer traffic their participation brings.
The startup acquires bitcoins on the market in accordance with customer demand. When a customer cashes out in bitcoin, the value is paid at that day's spot rate.
Encouraging local commerce
Existing parking rewards systems are usually tied to one garage and/or one company, often requiring specialist hardware for validation, which limits their scope.
Parkt, though, connects its users to a local area, allowing customers and businesses to participate in the program to join in with minimal setup.
The system is immediately scalable too, as QR codes can be printed on the ticket a customer collects at a parking garage, or even placed on a wall sign. Merchants can make special offers to parkers at multiple garages, drawing business from wider areas.
Further bitcoin integration
Parkt CTO Alex Wilhelm has been involved in bitcoin for years, even mining it in a small hydro-electric power plant operated by his father in Austria.
"Bitcoin lends itself to micropayments ... but it needs everyday applications," he said.
Wilhelm said the company is working on the next stage of bitcoin integration, which would allow users to actually pay in digital currency as well.
Parkt is launching initially at 20 parking garages around its home city of Seattle, and is negotiating with almost 50 others. The firm already has a partnership with the City of Seattle, and has held discussions with the local chamber of commerce in Singapore about the feasibility of operating its system outside the US.
The company plans to move its headquarters to one of the world's greatest automotive centers, Los Angeles, where it recently won a startup award from the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce.
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