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Irish company Itsmobile has signed a major new deal to sell its parking meter payments service, mPark, to the city of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Itsmobile said the deal marks the first time a wireless parking payments service has been deployed in the UK. Similar to the service launched in Dublin in January, the wireless payments system is available from pay and display parking meters in Edinburgh city centre.

To use the service, motorists ring a national number displayed on the parking meter. An interactive voice response (IVR) system lets the motorist input the machine's ID number and his or her own mobile PIN number. The Itsmobile system then sends a remote instruction to the parking meter, which prints out the adhesive parking ticket in the usual way.

Parking charges will then appear on the motorist's credit card; Royal Bank of Scotland (RBOS) customers also have the option of having payments debited in real time from their bank account, using the bank's FastPay service. The service, launched last year by the bank, lets its customers set up a dedicated FastPay account, which lets them send payments by text message or e-mail. To use the service, customers will need to register at www.fastpay.com and transfer money into a FastPay account. Parking meter payments will be debited from this account in real time when customers use mPark.

Itsmobile will receive an up-front payment in the Scottish deal, as well as a small portion of monies taken in through the mPark system. The company wouldn't discuss the details of the deal, but its total worth to the Irish company is understood to be a six-figure sum. Itsmobile said the service would be fully rolled out in Edinburgh during 2003.

The company plans to announce another significant UK deal in the coming weeks, as well as its first major deal outside Europe. Itsmobile is also targeting Asia and North America with its technology, which can be used to interface with ticketing box office systems and vending machines.

The company's parking meter payments system is becoming an easier sell to city councils as time goes on, according to the company's operations director, Donal McGuinness. "Selling the concept is not a problem anymore," he said. "Most of all, cities like that there's less cash in the system, which reduces their cash collection costs. Also, from time to time people do steal parking meters. Any time there is cash in the system, money goes missing." mPark addresses this need, he says, and lets cities move to a cashless system without the expense of putting a smartcard infrastructure into place.

McGuinness said that in Dublin, the expansion schedule for mPark will be decided by Dublin City Council, but he said he hoped mPark would cover all 450 meters in Dublin's yellow and red parking zones by this autumn.

© ENN

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