Become the MacGyver of the Parking Lot with Parking 2

Posted on 10/01/2011

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Created By: Andy61i

Version Reviewed:

Buy/Download Link (Free)

Final Score: 90%

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My brother and I took my two year old son to the 2011 Air Force Base Waterkloof Airshow and Lifestyle Expo, and there I had a trivial but common experience that made me appreciate even more the power of the mobile phone. You see the event was huge. The website expected turnout of 50 000 people. Driving to the air base along Hans Strydom Drive, by 10:30 AM the traffic had snaked back 3 km already and the road going towards Lyttelton from Pierre van Rynveld due to the huge traffic volumes headed to the base. By the time I found parking, it was apparent that finding the car again was going to be no easy task. You see I would later discover that I was 1.6 km away from where the planes were and worse the ‘parking lot’ was as nondescript as they, a grassy plain with hundreds upon hundreds of cars.

Then I remembered a utility called Parking 2, available from Nokia Store for free, with the stated goal of solving such a conundrum. So I got downloading, it’s a little over 1 Mb so was quick and I fired it up.

About Parking 2

The user is treated to a very simple screen to begin with just three options: Park Car, Locate Car, Parking Timer.

Parking 2 Home

Tap on Park Car and the next screen again is very simple, Save Location, Write Memo, Record Note.

Options for ecording your location

Save location uses your current GPS location. And this is brilliantly presented in the form of a handheld GPS unit. Using the N8, it took approximately 30 seconds to get a fix.

Saving your location

I glanced around my location identifying fixed landmarks, and left the information as a reminder using the voice recording feature. The Write Note feature is intended by the looks of things to be particularly use for situations where getting a GPS fix might me be a little tricky to night on impossible, like in an underground lot. You can enter generic information about the location of your car, floor, bay number and colour code.

   

So I set off to the air show unperturbed about the potential difficulty of locating my car.

After about three hours of jet fuelled fun it was time to head on home with the young man having had an exhausting but enjoyable day. I fired up Parking 2 again, and this time selected Locate Car. Here you get a number of options, View on Map, View on Camera, View on Radar, View Note and Voice Note

Locating your car

View on Map and View on Camera are good for a general overwiew. View on Map uses Nokia Maps data to show you your location relative to your car. I might have missed something but the Map is orientated to North all of the time so requires a bit more work if you were to use this to locate the vehicle. View on Camera is like any augmented reality app, think Wikitude, Layar or Nokia’s own Live View. This uses the camera and unlike Map View does seem to orientate you toward your car.

Map View

Where the app really shines is the View on Radar mode, which is the ultimate in geekery, as it mimicks the radar instrument display that you would have seen in so many cool action films. Before using this, one must be aware that this uses the phones digital compass and must be calibrated each time but you are given a warning and a quick guide.

Calibrating the compass

The display shows you where your car is and as you move positions the car appropriately to insure that you are always moving toward you target. Beneath the radar display, is a distance guage, so you’ll know not only which direction you shuould be going but how far you are from your car. Remember though that Parking 2 does give you an ‘as the crow flies’ guide, so beware of any obstacles in your way, like bushes or a chasm!

View on Radar mode in Parking 2

It was really cool however, traversing through the veld in a military air base, dodging obstacles in search of the vehicle, with a radar view on my phone screen. It just felt appropriate. I felt a bit like MacGyver, making use of the tools I had on hand to solve a potentially tricky and time consuming problem.

But did it work? I have to say yes. While it didn’t lead me 100% to the exact spot where my car was, I don’t think that is the intention of the app. As soon as I got to within 50 metres of my car, while Parking 2 was asking me to go slightly left of where I should be going, my car was in sight already and I didn’t really need the app from that point. And when I actually go to the car, it wanted me to be around 20 metres from where I should have been according to the diplay. The point is though, considering I’ve been driving this car everyday for three months, and it’s been in my family for 5 years, I would be able to pick it out of a line-up. In any case the deviation from my actual location was in line with the general accuracy of GPS fix at the time of 15 metres.

In summary these days smartphones ,and in fact a lot of mobile phones, are a smorgasbord of so many wonderful bits of technology, radios, chips, sensors, you name it, and this was almost unthinkable even 10 years ago. Unfortunately, as these devices get more and more advanced, that complexity is lost upon the end user who barring the obvious ones, are oblivious to their existence, never mind any potential use cases. It is pleaseing then when you come accross an up that leverages the powerfult technologies at hand, in this instance the GPS chip and the digital compass, to solve a surpirisngly common conundrum and to do so with a measure of style and efficiency. Little touches like radar view and using elements like making the save location view look like a handheld GPS unit shows that a lot of thought went now just into the function but the design of the app. Parking 2 satisfies the inner geek in all of us while still being incredibly useful and while I have never thought to use the app before, I was very impressed with both the ease of use, polish and how well it worked, and has been elevated from a novelty app to a useful one.

For that reason Parking 2 comes highly recommended, earning The Tech Bishop’s Seal of Approval.

iOS users can try Parking Mate by Taptapas, which boasts the same feature set as Parking 2. Car-Pass Car Locator is also available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone (DISCLAIMER: I cannot vouch for the quality of these two apps)

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Posted in: Apps, Mobile, N8, Review