Revealed: the new scheme that could mean free parking for Sunderland shoppers

The ParkingPerx app in action
The ParkingPerx app in action
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Have your say

Shoppers are being urged to have their say on parking in Sunderland - and help try out a unique free parking scheme for the city.

Sunderland BID, the city council and the Bridges are working together on plans to trial an innovative new app.

ParkingPerx , developed by North East company ProxiSmart, allows users to earn rewards from retailers which can then be used to pay car parking charges.

Sunderland would be the first place in the country to try out the technology. If the pilot is successful, it is hoped the scheme will be rolled out across the city.

Now people are being asked to participate in a survey about parking in Sunderland, with some of those taking part being invited to try out the app.

Bid marketing and communications manager Gemma Dishman believes ParkingPerx could be a 'game changer' for city centre shopping and will prove a huge boost in combating the trend to buy online.

"ParkingPerx does what the best apps do - makes life easier and provides valuable incentives to shop local," she said.

"Once the pilot is complete we hope that more and more retailers will get on board as it is a win/win for everyone. Shoppers can gather credits to use for their parking while merchants can use it as an opportunity to incentivise people to come in to the city centre."

The app was developed by ProxiSmart boss Chris Reed in just under a year and has already scooped awards including being a regional winner of KPMG’s Best British Mobile Startup awards. ProxiSmart have also been named as one of the Best 10 Tech Startups in the North at Tech North’s Northern Stars awards.

Chris said he chose Sunderland for the pilot 'because of the innovative, forward thinking and support we’ve had from the BID, Sunderland City Council and the Bridges.'

The system uses Smart Beacon technology, which sends smart messages to users when they park and shop. Itss unique features include one-touch parking and the ability to extend a stay in a car park without having to return to the car.

"Each retailer decides on what their offer or discount is going to be so the benefits will differ from shop to shop," said Chris.

"And the shopper simply presents their phone at the till to claim their reward, just like existing contactless payments systems. The solution then awards the user their ParkingPerx which they can use as a credit to pay for their parking fees."

Coun Michael Mordey, Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for City Services, is confident the app will help drive retail in the city.

"Sunderland has a wide range of shopping and leisure attractions and this app is an opportunity and incentive to remind people about buying locally and supporting their community," he said.

Anyone wanting to take part can find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ParkingSunderland

*ParkingPerx - how does it work?

ParkingPerx uses an innovative new technology - Smart Beacons (often referred to as iBeacons), which transmit a unique bluetooth signal that can cover any distance from 50cm and 70m.

Smart Beacons are deployed in and around car parks and parking spaces and make a wireless 'handshake' with your Smartphone, letting ParkingPerx know when you have entered and exited a car park.

Smart Beacons are also used in and around participating stores to verify ParkingPerx claims - upon completing a qualifying purchase, shoppers present their ParkingPerx claim to the retailer via their Smartphone.

ParkingPerx then collects these consumer-earned rewards from shops and pays them directly to car park owners/operators. Verified claims are available for shoppers to use against their parking fees on their next visit.

When they use the app to pay for their parking at the end of their stay, they will have a 'My Perx balance' that they can use to reduce or even eliminate their fee.