Published May 15, 2018
Parking — that never-ending issue confronting all commuting UB students — could very well have met its match, thanks to a parking app developed by an UB alumnus.
Spot Swapper, an app that can be used to find available parking spots or to exchange a parking spot with another user, gives students hope they no longer will have to spend their time searching in vain for a place to leave their vehicle on campus.
Developed by Andrew Mingola, who graduated from UB in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, Spot Swapper has become an increasingly popular way for UB students to find parking spaces since it became operational in April. The app is available for download on both iOS and Android platforms.
It currently has about 200 users.
“I think the No. 1 problem [with parking at UB] is one I made an app to solve,” says Mingola, “which is that you never know where the free spaces are and will be.”
He says he views apps as solutions to problems, and Spot Swapper is good example of that.
The app takes a few steps to use.
First, users must sign up for the app with their UB login information and vehicle information, which helps those using the app identify each other. The vehicle information can be changed at any time.
Users can select up to three preferences at a time for student parking lots on both the North and South campuses by using the “Lot Presets” option.
To find a parking space, users need to tap the Find a Space option or the Quick Park option. Students looking for a space within their preset lots should tap Quick Park; those looking for a space outside their presets should use Find a Space.
Spot Swapper uses a point-based system to control how fast drivers find a space. Think of it as a kind of parking-space bid. Users enter an offer of points.
“The more points you spend, the more matchmaking priority you get,” Mingola says.
Users are placed in a queue until a match is found.
Users also have the option to “Leave a Space” for another user. The driver stands by his or her parking space until the match arrives.
Users are asked to mark their parking location on a Google map of UB student lots.
“If parking, you wait until a spot is found, which will be indicated by a marker,” Mingola says. “If leaving, you drop that marker on your spot.”
Each user starts off with 100 points. Users’ points increase when they leaving a spot and give it to another user, and decrease when they are used to find a parking spot.
The current minimum number of points is 10, Mingola says. Users can gain additional points by using the Leave a Space option.
He notes, however, that this may change in the future. “This amount (of 10 points), as well as other amounts given and taken for successful and unsuccessful swaps, may change in order to achieve the most balanced system,” he says.
While Spot Swapper is now available only to students, Mingola says it could possibly expand to include faculty.
“If it turns out that faculty are a part of the market I overlooked, in all likelihood support for swapping faculty lots would be integrated into the same app,” he says.
Mingola says he also may consider upgrading Spot Swapper to feature other languages beside English.
The app is currently Mingola’s main project, and he hopes to earn a living developing software to create solutions to problems.
As with many great ideas that find a receptive audience, Spot Swapper has received more attention than anticipated.
“I am fully dedicated to its successful outcome,” Mingola says. “As they say about large undertakings, it’s a full-time job.”
For more information about the app, visit Spot Swapper’s website.