ZeroTier partnership means Metropolis can do a (parking) lot more.

Your networking solution shouldn’t limit your company’s ability to expand. Instead, global networking should drive your company’s growth and help you to do something extraordinary – say, build your IoT deployment from 5,000 devices to 100,000+. That’s what our partner Metropolis is doing as they use ZeroTier to rapidly expand their IoT infrastructure. 

Meet Metropolis

Metropolis is in the business of delivering a better driving experience. They don’t manufacture cars or build roads. Instead, they aim to improve your experience in day-to-day locales like parking garages and similar facilities.

We’ve all experienced how the payment system at most parking structures can create a frustrating bottle neck for people who just want to park and get on with their days. 

Let’s say you’re in a parking garage – first there’s the hard-to-reach button that spits out your parking ticket. If the machine breaks or runs out of paper, you’ll need to call the guard to let you through, adding even more time to your parking experience. But let’s just assume everything works; you take your ticket and move on. 

Now, maybe you remember to bring it with you. Paying on your way out should be quick and easy. But maybe you left your ticket in your cup holder, and now you have to trek back and forth between your car and the payment kiosk before you can leave. Or, if your ticket is gone completely, you might be forced to pay for a day’s worth of parking instead of the hour or two you actually used. Either way, you’re probably going to spend a few minutes in line behind other vehicles piloted by customers who are dealing with their own frustrations. No one’s thrilled, but that’s just how parking garages work, right?

Metropolis doesn’t think so. They are working to change this all-too-relatable narrative, with smart garages that recognize your vehicle and process your parking payment automatically. Simply download their app, and pull into any Metropolis-enabled parking garage for a smooth and worry-free experience.

Now with the power of ZeroTier

Today, Metropolis has over 5,000 devices in locations across the U.S. And they’re growing fast, able to deploy new devices at Formula 1 speed. At 8:00am there may be nothing, the hardware can be installed at 9:00am, and the parking garage can be collecting revenue at 10:00am. 

But getting all that infrastructure into place wasn’t easy – and making it work smoothly was an even bigger challenge.

The Metropolis system runs on fully customized hardware. In the beginning, this meant the nationally-distributed routers, cameras, sensors, etc. needed to be manually maintained and repaired. Because of the custom set-up, qualified technicians who knew how to service the system were few and far between. If a device went down, the Metropolis team might not hear about it for days. And it could take weeks to dispatch a technician to repair it. The situation was unsustainable. 

“Worse, the performance was terrible, and security was a real concern,” said Todd Shipway, Head of Technical Operations at Metropolis.

Additionally, Shipway was having a hard time finding a networking solution that met his needs. The custom hardware requires a flexible solution that adapts to the specifications of the equipment, not the other way around –  the VPNs and other technologies he assessed in the beginning were just too rigid.

“They wouldn’t support some of the things we needed to do from a customization perspective,” Shipway said.

All of this made it expensive and slow for Metropolis to scale. Bringing a new site online could take months and added another location that the team had to manually maintain. 

Shipway and his team needed a way to remove the bottleneck caused by their global networking challenges. ZeroTier provided exactly what they needed. 

Performance at scale

ZeroTier’s flexible network overlay system empowered Metropolis to bolster their performance AND scale operations fast. The software-based solution easily overlaid Metropolis’ custom hardware, creating secure peer-to-peer connections between devices, as well as a centralized monitoring platform. 

“There is not a single device that we cannot manage remotely,” Shipway said.

This fact enables Metropolis to keep growing and expanding, all without overcomplicating their device management strategy. The company’s network now includes 5,000 individual devices, but will grow to incorporate 40,000 within the year – and in two years, as many as 100,000.

An exercise in (auto)mation

Automating as many processes as possible is key for a network of this scale. The vision for the Metropolis system had always involved some amount of automation, but working with ZeroTier allowed the company to take it further than they ever thought possible. 

“Now that we can link that and do something with this, it unlocks A, B, and C,” Shipway said. “And then we realized, “We can also automate D because we can do C.”

One example of this application is the network’s automated self-healing feature. If there’s a problem, the system will automatically try to fix it. Failing that, the company is notified and can often troubleshoot via remote device access. Now technicians are dispatched only if absolutely necessary.

From 0 to 60

Deployment is another place where ZeroTier’s support for automation really shines. 

“We’ve done so much in six months, automation wise, that we’re now to a zero-touch deployment model,” Shipway said.

And the impact is palpable, with a deployment time that would challenge a pit crew. 

At 8:00am there may be nothing, the hardware can be installed at 9:00am, and the parking garage can be collecting revenue at 10:00am.

“My only regret is that I didn’t go down that path earlier,” Said Shipway. “Much earlier.”

Getting started with ZeroTier

Eager to dive deeper into the Metropolis story? Click here to visit our full case study.

Want to become our next success story? ZeroTier offers reliable, secure, scalable device connectivity for a wide variety of use cases.

Click here to learn more about some of the business needs that are driving clients of all sizes to adopt ZeroTier’s streamlined networking technology.

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