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SMS-enabled solar parking meters for Eastbourne

Txt chat hits new levels of tedium

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

The Sussex coastal town of Eastbourne is soon to receive a new hi-tech boon, in the form of solar-powered armoured parking meters which can send text messages.

Apparently the machines, each of which has its own SIM card, aren't endowed with Douglas Adams style overspec'd artificial intelligence brains. Nobody need fear that a desperately bored carpark ticket machine will try to strike up a philosophical txt conversation, or get depressed and refuse to issue tickets.

Rather, the idea is that the boxes, jingling as they must be with cash, will text a control centre when their coin compartments get full up - or if anyone should try to break into them.

The Guardian quotes East Sussex councillor Matthew Lock, "lead member" for transport, as saying:

"We are serious about giving Eastbourne a parking system that will encourage economic growth and will make the lives of residents that little bit easier. So we have thought long and hard..."

...And come up with the idea of text-messaging solar powered carparking hardware.

Apparently in the event of an attempted meter-raid, the droid will squeal for help by text, at which point the forces of law and order will spring into action and apprehend any shrapnel-snaffling miscreant before he can make his escape.

According to the Guardian, mechanical "cries for help will be sent via text and picked up at a 24-hour control centre... Staff could then alert police."

Given that police will seldom respond with any urgency to home-security-system-generated alarms (justifiably, given the percentage of false alerts), it's hard to see how this would help. Indeed, as the Guardian implies, they probably won't even bother calling the law in many cases.

But Councillor Lock was gung-ho.

"This will be one of the most secure parking services in the country," he said. "With this system, anyone who tampers with a machine runs the risk of being caught in the act and could be jailed."

Sure. If the jails weren't quite so full they might, anyway.®

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