Parkofon is Named a GAMIC Finalist
February 25, 2018
Parkofon is now a finalist for the 2018 Global Automotive & Mobility Innovation Challenge (GAMIC). Parkofon was one of twenty innovative start-ups who participated in the semi-finals on February 23. At the semifinals, Parkofon was identified as one of top performers.
While GAMIC is sponsored by the Michigan Innovation Alliance, contestants came from all around the United States and the world. The semi-finals were held at Walsh College in Troy, Michigan.
2018 marks the tenth annual GAMIC competition. GAMIC provides early-stage startups in mobility and transportation with the opportunity to showcase their businesses to the industry. Entrants receive mentorship, business coaching, and networking opportunities.
To make it into the semi-finals, contestants presented a pitch to a panel of 15 judges. The judging panel included representation from OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, and the startup investment community. Companies were assessed on the quality of their business plans and the potential for impacting the automotive and transportation industry.
This year’s semifinals showcased a wide range of new mobility technologies, including innovations in automobile manufacturing, cybersecurity, and parking. Now, Parkofon and other top teams will compete at the GAMIC finals on April 10. The finals will be held at Detroit’s Cobo Center at the WCX18: SAE World Congress Experience.
Winning teams will receive more than $300,000 of in-kind assistance and cash. Previous GAMIC winners include SiNode Systems, Covaron Advanced Materials, and EmiSense Technologies (now unit of CoorsTek Sensors).
Parkofon relishes this opportunity to showcase its revolutionary parking technology to the automotive and mobility innovation community.
Data Behind the Wheel: How Knowing How We Drive Can Help Us Live Better
February 20, 2018
Big Data will redefine our driving experience in the next few years. With so much information collected about how we drive, where we work, where we live, and who we meet, all these data can be used to bring a more personalized mobility experience to every driver.
For example, you like to grab a coffee at Starbucks every time you go to a business meeting. Driven by this implicit knowledge of your habits, devices like Parkofon’s will help you find the best parking spot in no time so that you can get your favorite coffee right before you have a business meeting next door.
Of course, the potential for data analytics is far greater than simply enabling those early morning latte runs. Once smart mobility takes hold, drivers and businesses will enjoy a whole host of benefits.
Here’s what you can look forward to in our data-driven future:
1. Technology will help drivers with route optimization.
It’s always a vexing question: what’s the best route to take to your destination? Most drivers are limited to guesswork and traffic report information that may be outdated. Even many GPS apps have a limited capacity to adjust to ever-volatile traffic patterns and our individual driving preferences.
Augmenting our omnipresent smartphones with smart driving devices will change all that. The precision afforded by this supplemental data will allow our navigation apps to be more sensitive to traffic changes while distributing vehicles more evenly throughout the city’s transportation network. This way, everyone–city planner and driver alike–is a winner.
2. Thanks to parking optimization, drivers will have improved access to public spaces.
Just about everyone knows that searching for a parking space is a major annoyance. But they might not realize that the problem is having a negative effect on both the economy and individuals’ lives. According to one survey, 63% of Americans report that during the last year they’ve avoided driving somewhere specifically because they worried about finding a decent parking space.
And it’s not just those trips to the movies that people avoid. 39% of survey respondents avoided shopping destinations and 21% avoid driving to work. Astonishingly, 20% said they avoided driving to the hospital or doctor’s office because of fears that they wouldn’t be able to find a spot. It is clear that parking woes are significantly affecting Americans’ ability to access shopping, healthcare, social gatherings, and recreational activities. The harm inflicted on individuals and public health cannot be ignored.
Businesses, too, suffer from people’s parking anxieties. Every time a person decides to stay home and order something online instead of going to the store, retailers and restaurants are losing out on potential revenue, which in turn negatively affects the entire economy.
Yet there is a simple solution available. If drivers are able to figure out where available parking spots are while they drive, they wouldn’t have to avoid going out in the first place. Technology such as Parkofon eliminates parking anxiety by directing drivers to open parking spots close to their destination. Ultimately, everyone benefits: drivers, businesses, and society at large.
3. Smart technology can provide protection against parking violations.
Parking tickets are eating into drivers’ savings in a major way. The average American receives a parking ticket once every five years. For drivers in New York and Los Angeles, however, it’s more typical to receive at least one parking ticket per year.
It’s not surprising that so many drivers are falling victim to parking tickets. Regulations posted on signs are oftentimes so confusing that it’s easy to make a mistake. Parking meters pose another set of challenges, as drivers must estimate how much money to put into the meter ahead of time. Oftentimes, this results in overpayment. The average New Yorker spends an extra $896 per year simply because they overestimate the amount of money needed for the meter or desperately going to a parking garage to be in time for a short meeting.
This space is ripe for innovation, and fortunately new technology can address the need. Parking devices that use algorithms can inform drivers about regulation, providing protection against those sneaky regulations. And if drivers can pay for parking directly from an IoT device, they won’t keep overpaying at meters.
Businesses can also benefit from smarter parking technology. The car-sharing company Car2Go experienced major problems when it tried to enter the New York City market. With about 500 vehicles under company ownership in 2015, Car2Go was slammed with over $250,000 in parking fines. Had Car2Go been able to access up-to-date information on parking regulations and violation alerts, this hefty bill could have been avoided. Virtually every business, from large transportation start-ups to local pizzerias who deliver food, can benefit from more accurate parking information.
4. Drivers can lower their insurance rates.
Data analytics is poised to revolutionize the way in which insurance companies set rates. Right now, drivers have limited control over their insurance rates. Most companies set rates based on metadata such as age, gender, marital status, etc. All of these factors are beyond drivers’ control. Although some companies adjust insurance rates based on the number of accidents and tickets accumulated, that’s still a very rough estimation of drivers’ ability to drive safely.
That’s where data analytics comes in. By using a device that tracks driver performance, car owners can prove that they are safe drivers. Today, more and more insurance companies are choosing to partner with technologies that track driver behavior. Imagine this technology coming to you with a built-in E-Z Pass, automated parking guidance and payment, and more.
Parkofon users can already use data from the device to lower their insurance rates. But for drivers who may frequently engage in behaviors that indicate unsafe behaviors, there’s good news: The service is entirely optional. However, the incentive of receiving lower insurance rates may encourage some drivers to drive more safely.
5. Data analytics can help correct bad driving habits, improving road safety.
Data analytics isn’t just useful for tracking drivers’ behavior. It can also work to help drivers improve.
While most people say that they’re good drivers, the reality is that many people are engaging in unsafe driving habits—sometimes without even realizing it. What if drivers knew exactly how many times they exceed the speed limit, use a cell phone while driving, or speed through intersections? Many drivers would change their behavior once gaining awareness, especially if they were also informed about how unsafe behaviors increase risk of accidents and fatalities.
It is very possible that data analytics can do what driver education and traffic police cannot. A smart device can stay with a driver throughout his or her entire journey, encouraging safe driving behavior all the way. Drivers may not always have accurate perceptions of their own ability to remain safe, but there’s no arguing with hard data.
The ways in which data analytics interact with driver safety will be particularly reassuring to the parents of teen drivers. When parents can assess their teens’ driving even when they’re not in the car, these oftentimes reckless drivers will be more mindful of safety.
Once we reach a tipping point in the number of drivers using technologies that rely on data analytics, it is very possible that we’ll see an overall reduction in car accidents. Data can make the roads safer for everyone.
6. Data analytics helps cities become smarter.
Ultimately, data analytics will jump-start the development of smart cities. Although many advocates of “smart cities” want to impose their own ideals onto city inhabitants, data analytics enables a more realistic construction of smart cities. By utilizing data about how drivers are actually behaving, city planners can better design cities that meet people’s needs.
For example, data analytics can help city planners identify which intersections are frequently congested and how people are parking in a certain neighborhood. This information can be used to implement both major and minor changes to improve the flow of traffic. Today, city planners often have to rely on manual observation. With data analytics, city planners can learn exactly when drivers have trouble finding traffic around one particular block and take steps to adjust parking rates on that block or change the parking configuration of the neighborhood.
Truly smart cities should evolve organically, in response to what people are actually doing on the ground. For that kind of smart city to take hold, we need data analytics.
It is clear that data analytics will reshape mobility just as much as it’s changing other areas of life. As Big Data continues to permeate driving, old problems will be resolved and new possibilities will open up.
Driving Equals Freedom: 7 Reasons Why We Still Enjoy Being Behind the Wheel
February 6, 2018
Reports that self-driving cars are just around the corner have been greatly exaggerated. After all, the technical challenges of building fully functional autonomous vehicles are still massive. But even if we could make self-driving cars, a critical question remains: should we?
Not only do many people enjoy driving themselves, but they also receive many benefits from it. In our rush to automate everything, we're in danger of losing the human experiences that make our lives meaningful. Although it might be cool to arrive at work in a self-driving vehicle, after the first few weeks that novelty is likely to wear off. On the other hand, the small pleasures gained from driving yourself wherever you need to go are timeless.
If you're still not convinced, consider these benefits of humans driving themselves:
Driving facilitates human independence.
Is there a greater signifier of human independence than being able to put your keys in the ignition and go anywhere you choose; to make your way, powered by your own skills and decisions?
The fact is, driving enables humans to feel truly liberated and in control. That's why so many teenagers count down the days until they can take a drivers' test (and beg their parent for a car of their own). These teenagers intuitively understand a point that has been too often lost in the self-driving car debates: driving equals freedom. Even if you could entrust a computer to carry out the same basic functions as a human driver, that would not provide the same sense of independence and self-satisfaction.
Although you wouldn't know it from media hype, many people are quite ambivalent about the prospect of self-driving cars. According to one survey from MIT, nearly half of all consumers would never purchase a self-driving car in any circumstance. Even many people who are okay with automated driving don't want a fully automated car. Across all age groups, less than half of buyers are okay with a fully automated vehicle. Among drivers 45 and up, less than a quarter of buyers want a fully automated car.
The MIT study is consistent with other surveys. Although many drivers are comfortable with some automated features, they don't want to hand over all of their driving to a machine. The human drive for independence is likely a major factor in their reluctance to hand over control of the wheel.
Driving to and from work can act as downtime.
Commuting to and from work can definitely be a nuisance. But it can also serve an important function for busy people: "me-time".
Can't you get that when sitting in a self-driving car? Well, maybe.
When sitting in the back of a self-driving car, your mind is free to disengage completely. While this may sound relaxing, returning to the hustle and bustle of the real world outside of your automated bubble can have jarring and even disruptive effects.
Driving yourself, however, requires just enough concentration to keep the wheels in your head from grinding to a rusty halt. Safely driving along a familiar route is stimulating, but not overly taxing. The majority of your remaining mental bandwidth can thus be used to decompress and regroup for the next phase of your day.
By the time you arrive at your destination, you'll find yourself fully prepared to engage. That's less likely when you must first rouse yourself from a state of semi-slumber when departing the confines of a self-driving vehicle.
When driving, people have time to think and work out other problems.
Traffic can be a pain, sure. But being behind the wheel gives you the opportunity to mull over a problem that's been nagging at you; to consider the bigger picture and think creatively.
It's exactly the same phenomenon that occurs when you get an "aha!" moment in the shower. Maybe you've brainstormed an idea for a new business, or conceptualized the opening chapter of that novel you've always wanted to write. Or perhaps you've made a breakthrough on a vexing issue at work or in your social life.
In short, driving provides uninterrupted alone time in which drivers can process intellectual challenges. Studies have shown that driving activates the prefrontal cortex. By activating this area of the brain-which is largely responsible for planning complex tasks-driving enables people to think differently about other things that have been on their mind. If we hand driving over to automated vehicles, we also sacrifice our own creativity.
Choosing your own route is superior to letting a computer decide.
Using a self-driving car means handing control of your route over to a computer. If you've ever been frustrated by directions provided by a navigation app or GPS device, you already know that this is a dicey proposition.
Even a really smart computer lacks the nuances of human understanding. The computer won't necessarily know which streets are always congested on Wednesday afternoons. It won't know the clever shortcut you found once. Your route will be entirely dictated by computer algorithms that may or may not accurately reflect the state of the roads.
While it may be possible to program a self-driving car for certain routes, doing that will likely be an onerous, time-consuming process. For the near future, even the most sophisticated computer won't be able to adapt to real-time conditions as quickly as a human driver. If you want to get to your destination via an efficient route, you must trust yourself.
Driving offers a sense of control that can be elusive in other parts of life.
So many things in life are beyond our control. We can't control whether we get that promotion, or if we come down with a bad case of the flu just at a critical moment. But when driving, we can control our own destiny. The car responds immediately to our desires, and we remain in control for the duration of the ride. In an uncertain world, driving acts as an anchor.
When the rest of life is so uncontrollable, why hand over control over the car?
Car trips can serve as family bonding time.
Most Americans have fond memories of taking family car trips both short and long. Although modern life doesn't always leave us with a lot of uninterrupted family time, car trips provide an opportunity for everyone to be in the same place and talk. There's a reason why so many great movies (like Little Miss Sunshine) feature families who bond on the road.
Even if conflict arises occasionally, it's still likely that you'll look back on those memories with a sense of appreciation. In fact, children may remember the car trip with greater clarity than a visit to an art museum.
Although family road trips may still be possible with self-driving cars, there's no denying the fact that they just won't feel the same. There isn't much fun in begging the computer to stop at every tourist road stop, and spur-of-the-moment detours may necessarily lose their spontaneity. For an authentic family road trip experience, we need drivers.
Most people still enjoy driving.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to stick with human drivers is this: People like driving. A survey conducted in Great Britain found that around 90% of drivers say they still enjoy driving, with many people admitting that even their commutes can be enjoyable. With so many people who enjoy being behind the wheel, it doesn't make sense to strive for a world where all cars are controlled by computers.
Automating tasks that really are a drag is one thing. Most people would jump at the chance to avoid vacuuming, mowing the lawn, or paying taxes. But driving is inherently different from those tedious chores. Driving provides a sense of independence and even pleasure. Eliminating human drivers makes no more sense than doing away with eating because modern technology can offer more efficient modes of consuming nutrients.
As these benefits demonstrate, driving isn't just a convenient way to get from one place to another. It's a benefit to individuals that we should be encouraging.
Parking is about the driver, not the infrastructure
January 29, 2018
In 2018, we can access almost any piece of information in the world from supercomputers that fit in the palms of our hands. And yet the solution to one persistent problem remains elusive: finding a convenient parking spot when we need one-without headaches, frustration, or a stroke of luck akin to winning the lottery.
Adding more parking to address parking difficulties might seem like a natural, intuitive solution. However, most cities already have a glut of parking lots. By some estimates, there are three non-residential parking spaces per vehicle. Several cities, like Los Angeles and Orlando, are fully one-third parking lot by area! Clearly the problem isn't a lack of parking spots-it's that we're not making optimal usage of the parking we already have.
That's why a truly smart parking solution should empower drivers. Infrastructure that meets our needs is already here, but drivers aren't able to take advantage of it.
Drivers still need parking
Some might wonder why we even need so much parking at all in the modern era. After all, ridesharing is booming and many municipalities are increasing spending on public transportation.
Yet, 76.3% of Americans still choose to commute to work in single-occupancy vehicles. For these drivers, ridesharing apps and public transportation just don't match driving in terms of affordability and convenience. Besides, think about a well-planned weekend outing with the family. In most cases, it's just not practical for a family of four to rely on public transportation or ridesharing to get downtown in time and efficiently.
How parking is failing drivers
Parking may be a fact of everyday life, but the experience still leaves a lot to be desired. The following frustrations should be familiar to virtually every driver on the road:
- An average American spends 17 hours per year circling around the block to find parking, resulting in $345 of wasted time and fuel. For city dwellers, the problem is even worse; New Yorkers spend 107 hours per year in search of parking. For Los Angeles, the waste is 85 hours, closely followed by San Francisco at 83 hours.
- Parking frustration is more than just an annoyance-it causes real stress. 61% of Americans say they've felt stressed out trying to find a parking space, with 23% confessing that they've felt road rage related to parking.
- Drivers looking for parking is a major cause of traffic congestion. This can make getting to work in the morning, or going out to dinner on Friday night, far more time-consuming than necessary.
- Parking signs are confusing. Drivers who make honest mistakes are oftentimes hit with hefty fines. While the average driver gets a parking ticket once every five years, in New York and Los Angeles, the average driver receives more than one ticket per year. This can seriously deplete personal savings in already expensive cities.
- Minimum parking requirements drive housing costs.
- Meters require drivers to estimate how much time they need to remain parked ahead of time. As a result, Americans overpay $20 billion per year for parking time they never use, amounting to $90 per driver.
- Many drivers deliberately avoid certain places just because they know that finding parking will be a problem. 63% of drivers say they avoid driving to certain destinations because of anticipated parking issues. 34% have abandoned a trip because they couldn't find a spot. This then harms local economies.
These are well-known and long-lasting pains. If infrastructure has been unable to solve them, it is time to turn to drivers. Parking is no longer about meters and spaces, it is all about an individual journey, be it a one-hour commute or next-door drive to grab a coffee.
Driver-centered parking: is it possible?
Fundamentally, most parking problems come down to the fact that drivers are working with a major disadvantage when it comes to finding parking. They don't have enough knowledge about parking availability and payment policies.
That we're still so clueless about the state of parking when other information is so readily available is truly baffling. Fortunately, with the Internet of Things (IoT) revolutionizing transportation, a driver-centered parking system is within reach.
In a truly driver-centered parking system, drivers would be able to find a good parking space without driving up and down the street. They would know the legal status of the space and could pay easily, without having to fuss with a meter.
In today's world, the solution is right at our fingertips. Innovators such as Parkofon are working to bring smart parking-driver-centered technology-to cities across the U.S. A small device paired with mobile app guides drivers to open spaces, alerts them of expiration time, and automatically deducts payment for the actual time they stay parked - all without wasting time in search for a space, figuring out confusing signage, and paying at the meter.
The ground is ripe for Parkofon's smart parking system. By 2021, 82% of newly manufactured cars will be IoT-connected devices. Using smart technology, drivers can make cities smarter places to live in. It's not necessary to build more parking structures, nor do we need to wait around for self-driving cars. By using existing technology to empower drivers, we can solve the worst parking problems right now.
Parkofon Wins Mobility Services Award at Detroit Auto Show
January 24, 2018
Parkofon won the PlanetM Mobility Services Award at the auto show in Detroit last week. The Automobili-D show, which took place from January 14 to the 18th as part of NAIAS (North American International Auto Show), featured exhibitions from over 150 companies (including universities, tech startups and governmental organizations) fueling the evolution of Michigan's automotive ecosystem.
One of only five companies to receive a category award, Parkofon is revolutionizing urban driving through its smart technology. Complementing this high-profile accolade is an introduction to an established automotive company and a full year of free office space at the PlanetM Landing Zone. This 65-desk space is subsidized by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) in order to foster continued innovation from Detroit's best startups.
The PlanetM Awards honor visionary leaders and groundbreaking collaborations in the state of Michigan. The awards represent a partnership between PlanetM, a Michigan Economic Development Center program which began in 2016, AutoMobili-D, and NAIAS.
PlanetM is elevating Michigan as a leader in transportation in the modern era. Judges for the awards include leading thinkers and innovators from the investment community, government, and institutions of higher education. The award ceremony on January 16 was honored and attended by public luminaries such as political heavyweight Rick Snyder, Governor of Michigan.
At AutoMobili-D, a wide range of transportation companies exhibited exciting new innovations in autonomous driving, connected cars, eMobility, smart cities, and mobility services.
Parkofon, which brings "smart parking" to cities, is changing transportation by making it easy for drivers to move around the city, find open parking spaces and pay without cash. The PlanetM award recognizes what Parkofon users already know: by making it easier to find open parking, entire cities' transportation systems can be made more efficient and usable for everyone.
Sorry, but Driverless Cars Are Decades Away – 5 Major Trends That Are Reshaping Transportation Now
January 2, 2018
According to the hype, self-driving cars are practically here already. In February of 2017, Tesla CEO Elon Musk boldly claimed that within ten years’ time most newly manufactured automobiles will have features that enable full autonomy. But while such predictions make for exciting headlines, most autonomous vehicle experts are considerably more cautious in their predictions.
The technological challenges alone are huge. Despite the work being done by Uber and Ford, we still haven’t figured out how to program a vehicle to operate safely in all weather conditions, on unpaved roads, and in a near-infinite variety of real-world driving scenarios. Solving these problems is likely to be more time-consuming than the optimists acknowledge.
Even if engineers come up with workable solutions to these challenges, still more lay ahead. Our roads, for example, are built for cars with drivers, and that’s unlikely to change in the near future. Rewriting traffic laws may be an equally challenging task, especially for interstate highways. There’s a reason why most driverless car trials are underway in cities such as Pittsburgh and San Francisco, where it’s relatively easy to tweak traffic laws. If you’re waiting to take a driverless car out on the I-5, you’re probably in for a pretty long wait.
But there’s still a lot changing in the transportation industry today. Innovative companies like Parkofon are seizing on these trends to create a real-world impact right now, all building the tech to help future driverless vehicles be more natural in our cities. Here are five of the biggest trends that are impacting how people get around:
1. Single-occupancy vehicles are still the norm, though most want shorter commutes.
76.3% of Americans still use personal cars to commute to work and the average commute is 26.6 minutes. Despite some growth in public transportation and telework, commuting remains ubiquitous. Every day, nearly 115 million single-occupancy vehicles are on the road for commuting purposes.
Still, most drivers would prefer shorter commute times. Rather than reinventing the wheel, leading innovators in the transportation industry are looking for ways to improve the existing commuting experience.
For example, the last mile of the drive often poses a difficulty most are familiar with: the hunt for a parking space. Parkofon addresses this problem with smart technology that directs drivers to open parking spaces. With this on-the-fly assistance, drivers can save the time they’d normally spend circling the block multiple times in order to snag an open spot.
Parkofon can become a leader in the space because our technology works with commuters’ habits. Single-occupancy cars aren’t going anywhere, but we can make parking (and hence commuting) more efficient.
2. Municipalities are overburdened with depleted infrastructure.
Even though commuters are still driving to work, cities and governments aren’t keen to invest in older infrastructure such as parking structures and physical meters. Now, municipalities prefer to redesign cities to better accommodate pedestrians, bikers, and ridesharing.
Cities and drivers need technology that can help optimize existing parking space, without building new structures, turnstiles, and meters. By enabling drivers to find parking more easily, Parkofon allows cities to make more out of their existing parking spaces. Our cash-free electronic payment system allows cities to charge for parking without installing of bulky parking meters that require maintenance. The end result: Parkofon helps cities modernize their infrastructure while still meeting drivers’ needs.
3. Both drivers and city planners are interested in creating sustainable transportation systems.
Given the problems caused by traffic congestion and negative environmental impact of long commutes, many city and state governments are actively working to make transportation more sustainable. California, for example, is investing millions into city planning grants focused on sustainable transportation.
There’s a lot of potential for optimizing parking systems to be more sustainable. 36% of parking professionals surveyed in 2015 said that environmental concerns and sustainability are the most important factors impacting the future of parking. Nearly half of parking professionals named guidance systems such as Parkofon as the technological innovation that has the greatest potential to improve sustainability in parking.
The elusive search for the perfect parking spot isn’t just causing headaches for drivers. It’s also further exacerbating urban traffic and releasing massive amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. By enabling drivers to find parking more efficiently, city streets become less clogged as Parkofon users reduce their carbon footprints.
4. Adoption of cashless electronic payment systems is up, especially alongside mobile applications.
Increasingly, we’re living in a cashless world when it comes to paying for goods and services. Digging up pocket change to park on the street or in a garage is thus increasingly outmoded. In addition to being inconvenient for drivers, cash payment is costly for municipalities and businesses that must hire parking attendants or at least pay for machine payments.
As a user-friendly mobile application, Parkofon is bringing a cashless electronic payment system to parking. Today’s drivers are less likely to have spare cash available for parking, so Parkofon lets them pay for parking with our app. After a driver parks, the app keeps drivers informed on expiration time and any changes to payment rates. This enables cities to implement complex pricing structures that optimize revenue.
5. The Internet of Things is making its mark on transportation.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing transportation. Business Insider estimates that by 2021, 82% of all newly manufactured cars will be fully connected to the Internet. These vehicles will be linked to the same network in which automated fixtures of everyday transportation infrastructure like traffic lights, street lamps, parking meters operate. The overall driving experience can thus be better choreographed and streamlined to reduce wasted time and resources. By enabling drivers to find parking spaces on the go, Parkofon is poised to usher in and capitalize upon the impending IoT revolution in transportation.
Though driverless cars are still decades away, there’s a lot of exciting change coming to transportation. Parkofon will be at the forefront of these trends in 2018 and beyond.
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