Loyola University Chicago

College of Arts & Sciences

Parking woes disrupted

Parking woes disrupted

Computer Science graduate student John O'Sullivan and his teammates used emerging technology to create a parking app. The team recently won a $15,000 grant from IBM to pursue further work and test the product.

By Tasha Neumeister 

Parking. It’s the one concern that unites most every major metropolitan with an influx of commuters or drivers. Computer science graduate student John O’Sullivan is setting out to ease our parking woes in his work on The Spot Exchange—an app that O’Sullivan and his teammates Aleks Velkoski and Dave Conroy developed. The app promises to disrupt the parking reservation services market by allowing users more autonomy in choosing and offering parking spots. The group, who met while working at the Center for Realtor Technology (CRT) Lab, recently won a $15,000 first place award in the international Unchain the Frame hackathon sponsored by IBM.

As part of the top honor, O’Sullivan and his team went to Las Vegas for the "Think IBM" conference to network with companies around the world and to present their design for an informal product review. Just back from the conference, O’Sullivan talks about how people can use the app, his experience at Loyola, and his plans for the future.

Can you tell us how your app works and how the public can use it?  
The Spot Exchange gives people the ability to have more control over their parking using blockchain technology. It enables people to rent physical locations designated for parking. Parking spaces include garages, lots, alleyways, and driveways, which may be located on private residential and commercial property. As a decentralized marketplace, our service product does not own physical parking spaces, establish asset prices, or set policy. Instead, we serve as the mechanism in which sellers of physical spaces connect with short-term or long-term buyers, and we provide an automated service for executing and enforcing contracts. The overarching idea is that people can their reserve  spots on the network and sell them without having to pay high commissions. But the product is for both people who want to list parking spaces and for those looking for a parking space. We’re hoping to more efficiently connect buyers and sellers and provide real-time price recommendations to sellers.

How did you gain an interest in computer science?
Since my childhood, I have always been playing with technology and taking things apart. I began programming in 6th grade, working with Batch and C mostly. By the time I entered high school, I already had a clear picture of what I wanted to do in life. That picture is the same now as it was during those times: To push current technology to its breaking point to see how it can benefit us.

How has your Loyola experience helped you get to where you are in your work?
My experience at Loyola has been incredibly supportive. The core CS (Computer Science) program exposes students to different technologies and development methods, which is crucial to have in the workforce. The department offers a range of classes that touch on anyone's interests, including server-side, client-side, game development, algorithms, etc. These classes all taught me how to approach similar problems in different ways. It was fun to go back to an old project for one class and redesign it using methods I learned in another to create an even better product.

What are your future plans for this app?
Currently, we don’t have any set plans for the app, but the underlying technology and blockchain community is a very active part of our lives. The blockchain technology is still at a young stage and our mission is to help move the technology along and become a mainstream component of the 21st century marketplace. After graduating this spring, I will be pursuing block chain technology in the private sector.