Never forget to start or stop your parking app again. ParkAlert is one of the ‘smart’ digital alert systems with which hardware and software developer Digital Alerts is now leading the market.
As early as in the creative process preceding product development, V.O. thinks along about the opportunities that protecting intellectual property has for DigitalAlerts.
DigitalAlerts emerged from ZippLabs in 2017, an affiliate that collaborated with Sophisti in Amsterdam. Eindhoven-based industrial designer Tijn Kooijmans, from Sophisti, is co-leading the company as Chief Technical Officer. Kooijmans: “We focus on interactive IOT applications (internet-of-things), with the goal of taking the burden off the end user in their daily lives.”
Reminder for paid parking
ParkAlert is DigitalAlerts’ first and most mature product. It is a device – a button – on the dashboard of the car that is connected via Bluetooth to a mobile app. When the driver gets out of the car, the phone switches to the app. Based on the location data, the app checks whether the vehicle is in a paid parking area. If that is the case, ParkAlert warns the driver to switch on his parking app. When the driver gets back into the car, ParkAlert will then beep and remind the driver to turn off his parking app.
DigitalAlerts is ambitious. Kooijmans: “We now have a link to the YellowBrick app, so our product can make direct contact with that app to stop parking actions in time with a push on the ParkAlert button. That is convenient and safer. Nevertheless, ParkAlert can also be used in combination with the other parking apps. ParkAlert is mainly applied in large cities and therefore its operation is primarily geographic. This is because paid parking via a parking app is not possible everywhere and in most countries outside the Netherlands and Belgium, paid parking is regulated very differently. Kooijmans: “The growth is thus bounded.” In this respect, DigitalAlerts has several ‘Alert’ solutions on the shelf. In addition to ParkAlert, the product portfolio has been expanded to include alerts such as BikeAlert, a solution to prevent bicycle theft, among others, and BellAlert, which uses an app to report, for example, when a parcel delivery driver rings the doorbell. Kooijmans: “BellAlert (formerly Zipp Labs) has the potential to become big, because the product is not geographically bound. It contributes to a more efficient and sustainable logistical process, because parcel deliverers are less likely to stand in front of a closed door and have to offer the package again.”
All of the products that DigitalAlerts develops will eventually be housed in independent companies. In doing so, it is essential that each of the innovations is protected from competition and counterfeiting. This also gives investors more confidence. Kooijmans: “When we developed ParkAlert, my assumption was that it would not be new enough to patent. After all, a so-called Bluetooth beacon and a smartphone already existed. V.O. made us realize that it was the combination of the alert with Bluetooth and parking that made the invention new. We wouldn’t have found that out otherwise.”
Leo Jessen, patent attorney at V.O., supervised the patent process for ParkAlert. Jessen: “With IOT inventions like DigitalAlerts, the trick is always to take into account possible other applications of the technology when drafting the patent application. This gives the customer growth opportunities for the future.” As a patent expert in the development of BellAlert, Jessen was involved early in the creative development process. Kooijmans: “For us, this was very valuable. Sparring with someone who is up to date with the ‘state of the art’ got us thinking. That’s how we came up with new ideas.”
Kooijmans: “Thinking about intellectual property protection is often seen by product developers as a brake on innovation. I see it primarily as an inspiration and an opportunity to develop products further. Through V.O’s involvement in this, they make a good contribution to our business.”