Finalist | ComThings (France) - digital key for parking space sharing

03/02/2015  |  CODE_n Alumni, CODE_n15 Startup CONTEST, Interview
Comthings quadrat

Our Finalist ComThings from France offers a digital key for sharing parking spaces and home deliveries. Access is managed via smartphone and granted via the cloud without physical modification to entry mechanisms. We talked to Djamil Elaidi, the CEO of ComThings, about his solution.

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Where did your idea for the company come from?

Djamil Elaidi (ComThings): Today, almost everything can be shared via apps or Web services: cars, apartments, tools, clothes… We believe the next big thing after home and car sharing will be sharing parking spaces. But what’s the best way to share a parking spot securely and simply? There are currently no ways for people to do this effectively. Our technology allows the owners of parking spaces to rent out their parking spot for a number of hours or even days. Users benefit from the large offer provided by private individuals. Owners of parking spaces and users manage access by using their smartphone and an accessory that acts as a generic pass.

For which kind of audience is your product or service intended and what problem is it solving?

Djamil Elaidi (ComThings): Our audience is all people looking for an alternative, cheaper and widely available solution to the lack of parking spaces. We offer users the capability to park on spaces belonging to other private individuals. These spaces are generally much more numerous than regular parking lots. Owners of parking spaces digitize their standard remote control and create a digital key using their smartphone and our “appcessory.” This digital key is a secure clone of the original remote control. The process has been simplified to enhance the user experience and it only takes a few seconds. No modification to the garage door mechanism is needed. Users book and pay online. They access the system with the same appcessory which acts as a generic pass. Owners of parking spaces can revoke access at any time via the cloud. Since everything is managed with a smartphone, owners of parking spaces and users do not even need to meet. Our technology is perfect for buildings in joint ownership, where dealing with the management agency can be time-consuming. We also allow the operators of shared parking spaces or specialized market places to increase their offer by accessing spaces owned by private individuals.

Tell us a bit about the company’s founders like their professional or industry background and the origins of the founding idea.

Djamil Elaidi (ComThings): I am a Linux and Android expert. I have more than 15 years of experience in wireless and embedded technology (SAGEM, NEC, Texas Instruments) where I was in charge of R&D. Jean-Louis Peyre has a Ph.D. in signal processing and more than 20 years of experience in industry, 16 years of which were at Texas Instruments where he was in charge of international teams working on multi-million dollar programs. He also launched his first company in 2003. He is in charge of all commercial and customer issues. Jean-Louis and I wanted to apply our know-how to parking space sharing.

One day I left home without the remote control for the automatic gate to my house and I was stuck outside with only a smartphone and no way to open the gate. Despite all the clever features on my phone I couldn’t do something as simple as open a gate. I met Jean-Louis some time later and we decided to create ComThings, to add this capability to a smartphone. We began to work on an integrated universal remote control, but by this time our goal was to integrate it into the smartphone. And this is how we started…

Our very first target was smartphone manufacturers, which was not an easy audience, despite all our relationships in this area. To operate a garage door, a smartphone requires major modifications both in terms of the hardware and the software, but we succeeded and built a proof of concept. We then run a pilot study and our focus is now on sharing parking spaces, which we believe is the next big thing after home and car sharing. The product has now evolved and it’s a standalone accessory which is compatible with all smartphones. We are now on our third iteration of the prototype.

Apart from the obvious, how are people benefiting from your solution? And, speaking as someone who keeps getting in these kinds of situations: what happens if I lose my operating device – the smartphone – or if my battery runs lows?

Djamil Elaidi (ComThings): Our solution makes it possible to share a parking space simply, securely and at a reduced cost. Our technology allows private individuals to rent their parking space for a few hours or even several days while away on vacation. The owners of parking spaces can decide to share access for a few specific days or for a certain timeslot. So the owner knows who is using their space and when. Access can be revoked at any time. The smartphone is the key but we are also using an accessory which is connected wirelessly to the smartphone. To operate, this accessory is controlled by the smartphone for security reason. If the user is running out of battery power or has no network, the accessory can be configured to act in standalone mode, just like a standard remote control. This makes it the perfect replacement for an existing remote control.

See ComThings live on the CODE_n Stage on Monday, 16.03.2015.