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Smart parking guidance to support smarter cities

Smart parking guidance to support smarter cities
As governments worldwide increasingly turn to smart cities and traffic management becomes a primary concern, smart traffic guidance solutions are gaining importance.
As governments worldwide increasingly turn to smart cities and traffic management becomes a primary concern, smart traffic guidance solutions are gaining importance. With the increasing number of vehicles around the world, managing them is becoming more and more complex. Thankfully, the automotive industry has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the recent innovations in technology that has allowed devices to become smarter and more efficient.
With the growth of the vehicle industry, parking has become a major problem. Fortunately, the smart parking industry has come a long way in the recent years. According to a report from MarketsandMarkets, the passenger car smart parking market is expected to reach US$5.3 billion by 2021, growing at a CAGR of almost 18 percent in the ten years leading up to it.
The major factors driving this growth are concerns over increasing urban traffic congestion, limited availability of parking spaces and stricter regulations on emissions. That several governments worldwide recognize the importance of efficient parking management is also helping the market get a favorable environment.
Among the different solutions that make up the whole ecosystem of smart parking, one that stands out is guided parking systems. Put simply, a parking guidance system helps people avoid the time-consuming and stressful process of finding empty parking spaces in parking lots.
But for systems integrators (SIs) who are interested in incorporating this solution to their portfolio, there are more benefits and features to be understood.

Benefits of guided parking solution

According to Harald Schmitt, CEO of the Germany-based MSR-Traffic, there are three main benefits to a strong guided parking solution — reduced time for finding a free parking spot, reducing emissions of cars due to better navigation, and full monitoring of all
Harald Schmitt,
CEO, MSR-Traffic
parking spaces. While this is the solution in a nutshell, it is important to understand how this is achieved. Rebecca Grainger, National Sales Manager at the New Zealand-based Smart Parking Technology, explained how their solution works.
“Smart parking offers various options around guidance for motorists to find available parking locations, as well as individual bays,” Grainger said. “Our app shows real-time location and guidance information from each site our sensors are installed in. The app uses Google Maps, meaning people can plan their entire journey in a user-friendly and economical way. Other guidance we can offer includes on-site variable message signage displaying real-time space availability and direction to available bays. In a multi-level car park environment, we also offer overhead indicator sensors that change color depending on the occupancy status of each bay.”
Grainger added that each of these solutions provides substantial benefits for car park operators, local communities, visitors and the environment, including:
  • Reduction in vehicle congestion on busy streets.
  • Reduction in pollution levels due to cars circling and idling in traffic.
  • Negates the need for cities to employ teams of parking wardens.
  • Increase in road safety as drivers are verbally directed to available parking, meaning instances of inattention or road rage are minimized.
  • Increase in parking compliance.
A crucial factor to note here is that it is easy to get caught up in understanding the need and want of the customer when providing a solution like this, a look at the bigger picture would help the industry in the longer term. According to Paulius Vezelis, who handles business development at the Lithuania-based company Pixevia, the obvious benefit is the convenience for car owners, but the advantages go beyond that.
“First of all, smart parking guidance saves people’s time. It reduces the time needed to find a place to park, which in turn reduces CO2 emissions, as cars don’t need to go in circles to find a free spot,” he said. “A secondary benefit of smart parking is traffic reduction in the city, because statistically around 40 percent of traffic, especially in the city center, are cars searching for a place to park. Smart parking helps to reduce CO2 emission of the whole city, because the traffic is more efficient and there are fewer cars on the road.”

The technology behind the solution

According to Harald, there are four major components that make up a smart parking guidance system. These are wireless magnetic field sensors, cameras, induction loops, and radar. Vezelis is of the opinion that modern top of the line solutions use only cameras to monitor parking lots and entrances/exits in combination with graphics processing units (GPUs) for information processing.
“You can use older cameras that are installed at the parking lot for security or use simple new cameras,” Vezelis said. “There are several options for video processing: you can set up the GPUs in your server and process the data locally, or stream video from the camera to the cloud and it will be processed there.”
Rebecca Grainger,
National Sales Manager,
Smart Parking Technology
Grainger elaborated further on this, adding that the technological components that go into their company’s guidance systems can, in their simplest form, be broken down into a network of sensors, variable message signage, app and map. These are all programmed and run through the company’s Google Cloud-hosted platform and are made visible to operators via the dashboard of their client software.
Sensors can be in-ground, on-ground, or overhead, apart from car counters and ALPR cameras, Grainger explained further. IoT gateways embedded in every single unit allow numerous devices to connect as well as provide areas of open connectivity. Signage systems display real-time information around space availability and car park capacity and provide directions to encourage traffic flow. Mobile apps that customers can use provide real-time guidance and payment facilities. Smart parking technology also provides a map that can be embedded into websites and allow visitors to plan their journey to a specific location or business.

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