Eventually, the final components that go into a parking solution depend on the customer's requirements, the location, local regulations.
Eventually, the final components that go into a parking solution
depend on the customer's requirements, the location, local regulations, etc. But in general, three processes make up a smart parking solution - data gathering, analysis and management, and information display.
Certain factors make the components ideal. According to Ian Todd, Director of Automated Parking, Westfalia Technologies, what is ideal and what is crucial can both be answered in one word - reliability. A perfect parking management solution is only as right as the components that make it.
"If components in our software fail to integrate with a building system properly,
the parking solution is not merely a solution, but more so a problem," Todd noted. "The hardware and software components need to be reliable for an automated parking solution to be effective. It's about material choices that will last a long time. It's about the detailed design and design experience not only in providing equipment level redundancy but system-level redundancy so that if for some reason the system goes down, you can still get cars in and out."
Data gathering is arguably the most complex and critical of the tasks. There usually are two approaches: analyzing parking space occupancy or analyzing vehicles.
"Systems analyzing parking space occupancy will work on figuring out how many, and, if possible, specifically which parking spots are free," explained André Leitão, an independent security expert and business development executive working on parking systems. "They may either use individual (e.g., electromagnetic) sensors or cameras with analytics. The first is, in principle, more expensive (cost of sensor + infrastructure) but offers the highest accuracy. Cameras will allow covering broader areas and are quite reliable as well, but they must be carefully planned with visual obstacles such as trees being a limitation."
In a different approach, the system may just need to know which vehicles have entered and remained in a parking area. These systems will use automatic license plate recognition cameras. On their own, such systems only provide a granular indication about the number of free spots but may help to ensure that that vehicle is permitted and not violating any rule.
Analysis and management
The next step in a smart parking system is to digest the information that allows providing real-time data to the "customers" (drivers and parking managers). This task is performed by a software system that continuously collects data from the data gatherers, and using algorithms and sometimes AI, can generate useful information.
"This system may also allow configuration of the parking areas, setting parameters such as opening times to reserving and changing permissions for parking spaces, which will influence the automatic rules used for violation detection," Leitão said.
The smart parking system can also help the payment system to ensure that the vehicles are permitted in the area and paying. This can be done in various ways using data correlations. Rules must be introduced to detect violations, and in principle, must work along with automated license plate recognition.
One of the raison d'être for a smart parking solution is to provide drivers with information about parking availability and direct them to an available spot.
"This is normally done using display panels at strategic locations in the city, indicating several free parking spaces at each parking area served," added Leitão. "On a more advanced solution, this information can be fed to drivers' smartphones or navigations systems, optimizing the traveler journey.
A smart parking solution should also be able to provide real-time metrics to the parking management, optimize and enhance operations, facilitate interventions, and support further improvements and changes, as well as an alert for violations.