Written by: Stuart Foxman

One day, Ali Khalili drove over to see a friend and had a hard time getting into the condo’s parking lot. What do you do if security or a concierge isn’t available to help? As a condo owner himself, Khalili realized too that you may not always have a fob or remote on you. Or maybe the devices don’t always work.

It got him thinking. There must be a more efficient way to operate commercial parking. So he created one.

Khalili’s company, Ashna Solutions (ashnasolutions.ca), builds artificial intelligence packages for parking management systems.

Here’s how it works. High-res cameras on a garage or gate read the license plates of approaching cars. The hardware connects to a cloud-based server, checks whether the car is allowed to the building and, if so, lets it inside. There are no buttons to push; it all happens automatically. Property managers can access and monitor the system from mobile and desktop devices.

In Persian, ashna means familiar, explains the Toronto entrepreneur. “We’re trying to make buildings smart, and only allow familiar people to get in,” Khalili says.

Access protocols will depend on the policies of the property manager. For instance, residents can use the system’s portal to register their own licence plates. For expected visitors, they can enter those plates and give access for specified periods, like certain hours or days. The portal allows for many options.

Khalili holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science, as well as an MBA. He has experience as a software engineer, and worked for Google for a time in Japan. Back in Toronto, he was serving as a technology consultant when he got the idea for Ashna Solutions.

In the summer of 2018, Khalili conducted extensive research with builders of high rises, property managers, residents and security companies to see if his business proposition sparked interest. Khalili also talked to lots of incubators and accelerators, and found a valuable mentoring program at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

Khalili has prototypes ready for installation, and is targeting residential property managers as a first phase. Next, he’d love to get into the office building market.

The license plate recognition technology increases not just efficiency but also building security.

For instance, tailgating is a frequent problem in property management. That happens when one car that isn’t authorized to enter quickly follows in another authorized car. For safety reasons, a gate or garage door won’t shut fast, creating a weak spot for intruders. Ashna’s technology detects those tailgating vehicles, and sends an immediate notification to security.

The system’s reporting feature can also help buildings to identify and take advantage of under-utilized parking spots. Khalili says property managers can track precisely how many vehicles are entering and when. Let’s say an average of 50 spots are always empty during the day. With that insight, the property manager might want to partner with a parking management company and rent those spots. “Everything is possible,” says Khalili.

Although his technical background helped him to create his start-up, Khalili says he possesses something else that fuels any entrepreneur. “My passion is looking for problems and how to solve them.”

Photo credit Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real