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Prize-winning innovators Skymeter could revolutionize parking -- and eliminate traffic

The holy grail of the international traffic industry is eliminating gridlock. With a technology that Wired magazine recently named as key to accomplishing that lofty goal, Toronto start-up Skymeter Corporation recently won the top prize for innovation at the prestigious Intertraffic Innovation Awards in Amsterdam.

The company's Skymeter product is a GPS-based road-use meter that is currently used in Winnipeg to bill drivers for parking (on a no-tag-necessary, by-the-minute system that eliminates the risk of parking tickets). Similar applications are in the works elsewhere, but the application of the technology that's really turning heads is its possible use for congestion charging: its GPS technology would allow accurate, hassle-free billing for different streets or zones at different times of day.

According to Skymeter CEO Kamal Hassan, the use of Skymeter for congestion charging has already been tested and proved effective (in a commissioned project for Cisco Korea. He says that such uses are among "about six groups in our pipeline" that are ready to place large orders.

The company was founded in 2006 -- the realization of an idea founder Bern Grush had after getting a parking ticket and wondering why his car wasn't smart enough to know when its time was up and feed the meter itself. Together with Hassan and company CTO Preet Khalsa, Grush developed a metering technology based on GPS that, according to Hassan, "takes readings from the car and turns them into financial transactions, while protecting the privacy of the driver." Since launching in 2006, the company has grown from the three founders to employ 12 people.

In addition to the contract in Winnipeg, Skymeter notably has an R&D contract with the European Union. Expecting large orders to begin coming in this year, the company is currently seeking financing to ramp up production.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Kamal Hassan, CEO, Skymeter Corporation

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