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Making use of Parking Lots in the Smart City

While smart cities have evolved and advanced, and smart automobiles have been making great progress, parking lots have been ignored. Even though looking for a parking spot is frustrating, time-consuming and often nerve-wracking, people have accepted the process as part and parcel of everyday life. However, smart parking lots have started to appear and the first results have been promising. The growth consultants Frost & Sullivan have reported that investments of around $200-$250 million will take place until 2019, and, by 2020, around a million smart parking spaces will be available worldwide.

Current parking lots utilizing smart solutions mostly work like the example of the Baltimore/Washington airport, which has two huge boards guiding drivers towards free spaces, but since they do not use occupancy sensors they can only point the driver to the approximate locations and not to the free spaces themselves. Also, a team from Rice University has developed a model in which a camera takes minute-by-minute photos which are analyzed by a computer using an object detection algorithm, which can detect free spaces and communicate their availability to users.

Of course, there is still a lot of room for development and improvement of how smart parking lots operate. A truly smart system should not only be aware of which spaces are free but also guide users to the closest free space without the need for human intervention. This can be accomplished through the use of an app for smart phones and tablets.

“Each space should be tracked by the system. Multiple types of sensors can be used for this, but the sensors’ accuracy cannot be compromised. False positives must be minimal. As the number of sensors increases, cost will be drastically reduced. When the status of the sensors changes, a gateway device will be notified.”

As smart solutions for parking lots mature and evolve, some of the directions they are expected to take or features that they might involve are:

  • Allowing parking payments to be made through the users phone, and automatically notifying the police for ticketing if the car overstays the allotted amount of time.
  • Allowing parking reservations to be made beforehand via the user’ s phone.
  • Using smart sensors to dim out the lighting in unoccupied or inactive sectors of the parking lot and save energy.
  • Applying these smart solution to on-street parking once the state of off-street parking is improved.
  • Using GPS-based systems inside parking lots to guide users to unoccupied spots.
  • Make parking space data available to local government bodies and citizens to allow better planning and the avoidance of traffic jams.

The original, extended, article can be found on the IBM Internet of Things blog.