Monitoring system promises to help councils, and tell drivers where to park.

Don Sandbrook must be one of the few people who, on seeing a parking warden chalking tyres in the rain, thinks "poor bastard".

But not only did he feel sympathy, he also thought he must be able to find a way to bring the business of parking enforcement into the 21st century.

So arose the idea for Frogparking, a low cost, solar-powered parking occupancy sensor (try to say that three times quickly).

Sandbrook has prior form for this sort of thing. Twenty years ago he created an electronic seed metering system and formed a company called Seed Spider. It's estimated that the technology is now used to sow two-thirds of the salad mix grown in the US. He also founded Spidertracks, believed to be the world's first portable iridium tracking device for aviation.

SeedSpider is still his baby and "an awesome business" but he sold his stake in Spidertracks, now sold in more than 30 countries.

He's not short of a bob, then. Which is just as well as he has spent about $2.5 million over two years setting up Frogparking, which has yet to turn a profit.

"I'm very, very confident that this is going to be a multi-million-dollar enterprise shortly," Sandbrook says.

His company is rolling out its product in Palmerston North (where Frogparking is based), has strong local interest from "four large councils", is starting a project in Australia and is entertaining delegations from Germany, Spain, Singapore, France, Japan and Canada.

"We've put Palmerston North on the map," says Sandbrook.

It works like this: a Frogparking sensor, a small disc powered by a solar panel, is glued to the tarmac in each parking bay, and registers whether there is a car in the space. Information from the sensors is communicated wirelessly, and parking wardens have access to it via smartphones, so they can tell at a glance whether a parking bay is occupied, and whether payment has been made.

Developing the technology was no easy task. Its software had to be integrated with Australasian pay-and-display company ITS, and DPS, which handles credit card and Eftpos transactions.

"That's what has captured the interest of pay-and-display manufacturers worldwide; that's what they're interested in," says Sandbrook.

It's fair to say this innovation has not made Frogparking the most popular company in Palmerston North. "There is a bit of backlash," says Sandbrook, who claims media coverage in the Evening Post and on TV3's Campbell Live has inflamed the issue.

"People don't like systems likely to catch them from paying for things; there is a bit of rumbling," is how he puts it.

But it's not the more efficient ticketing system and increased penalty payment that is attracting local body attention. Instead, it is Frogparking's impact on compliance that has council fingers itching.

Studies show more than half of parkers don't pay. Even in cities with aggressive ticketing regimes, such as Auckland and Wellington, only 45 per cent of parking time is paid for.

In Palmerston North, a city of 80,000 people with 4000 central car parks, compliance jumped 25 per cent, says Sandbrook, despite the system not being fully implemented.

If the increase in compliance can be replicated in other urban districts, cash-strapped councils are looking at a significant increase in revenue.

"Parking costs should come down because more people will comply for their parking," Sandbrook says. "If everyone was honest and paid for their parking, the charges could be halved."

He says Frogparking has been greatly assisted by $580,000 of research and development money from the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology.

He is now readying new applications for smartphone users that will show drivers the nearest carpark in town. "That's the next step we're taking - to direct people to parks with our sensors," he says.

Although the company has yet to turn a profit, Sandbrook is bullish about revenue. "We have all sorts of options from revenue sharing, leasing, straight-out sales of the product, but our marketing thrust is to sell the hardware to pay-and-display manufacturers. They have the distribution channels in place worldwide and they're very keen to add sensors to their pay-and-display offering."

The number of cars on roads globally is expected to double in 10 years, putting significant pressure on urban infrastructure, including parking.

"There's such a strong, genuine interest worldwide that even if we turn a tenth of the interest that we believe is genuine into business, it's a goldmine," he says. "Parking issues are the same worldwide."