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For cities that haven’t adopted smart parking, here’s why they should

For cities that haven’t adopted smart parking, here’s why they should
All urban dwellers who drive know how tough parking can be. Luckily, more and more cities are deploying smart parking technologies to facilitate drivers. The pandemic has only driven that trend further.
All urban dwellers who drive know how tough parking can be. Luckily, more and more cities are deploying smart parking technologies to facilitate drivers. The pandemic has only driven that trend further.
Needless to say, one of the biggest challenges of driving in cities is parking. With limited parking space and more people driving, finding one can be a daunting and frustrating experience. On top of that, longer navigation and driving time results in traffic congestion and further damage to the environment.
Enter smart parking. Increasingly, cities turn to smart parking solutions to make parking easier. Signs that guide drivers to the nearest parking spot and automated entry and exit via license plate recognition are part of this ongoing trend, which emerged years ago but has gained momentum over time.
Smart parking has to do with sensors and the data they generate. Sensing devices range from magnetic sensors to IP cameras working in conjunction with various analytics. The data is transmitted to the backend for further analysis.
“Magnetic sensors are used most often in Europe and parts of Asia and Australia. In North America, we are starting to see the increased use of IP cameras combined with machine learning engines to detect a vehicle presence in a loading zone, surface lots and on-street. Many camera solutions allow you to monitor multiple spots simultaneously which can be used to provide real time usage metrics,” said Michael Bradner, product manager at Genetec.
“Different (transmission) standards are used based on the hardware and solution. Most magnetic sensors have built-in batteries or are solar powered. They use LoRAWAN which reduces power consumption to communicate with a base station. They might also be compliant with other communication protocols depending on the hardware provider. IP Cameras can use wired or cellular connection to send sensor data back to a consolidator or direct to back-end,” he added.


Demand for smart parking continues to rise as cities realize its various benefits, which range from reduced traffic to better management and planning. Below we examine these benefits in detail.


Smart parking simplifies navigation, period. Sensors and the data they generate can turn into actionable intelligence that tells the driver, via their mobile devices, where the nearest parking availabilities are. “Mobile applications and hardware solutions are growing to direct parkers to available parking spots both on-street and off-street. Sensors are used to identify available spots with data feed to a sign or to a parking application. Occupancy data is also being collected to help predict where there will be open spots at given times,” Bradner said.


With smart parking, walking to the meter/automatic payment station to drop coins will become a thing of the past. “Many universities I have spoken to are removing cash pay stations and replacing them with app-less permits and payment apps to pay for transient parking payment. Many jurisdictions keep an option to pay cash, but that is no longer the main payment method. The amount of pay stations available is being decreased in favor of e-payments. Removing cash meters reduces complexity, simplifies security and eliminates costs to count and store the cash,” Bradner said.

Disease control and prevention

The smart parking trend has only been sped up further by the pandemic. “COVID has accelerated the adoption of frictionless parking and contactless payment options like app-less permits via QR codes and mobile payment solutions that use the license plate as the digital permit. With hybrid work model being more widely adopted, people are also looking for more flexible permit options. The need to be in the office 5 days a week for 8 hours a day is evolving to 2 or 3 days in the office with rest of the week being remote,” Bradner said.

Smarter enforcement

Smart parking also makes enforcement more efficient. Instead of having people issue tickets or citations, the process is now automated. “Smart parking tends to digitize parking. The moment we move away from signs, analog meters, and handwritten citations, we can begin to use software and hardware to automate enforcement. If the parking transaction lie in a database, parameters like location/time/duration/day of the week, and license plates (identifier) become variables in a digital equation that can be automated,“ Bradner said.
“Covid has increased concerns with the safety of enforcement officers,” he added. “Cities are starting to explore ways to reduce agent interaction with the public and move to a central enforcement model where citations are mailed to the violator. This migration to mailed tickets requires the necessary legal and privacy framework be in place to mail a citation to parkers.”

Data sharing

Data sharing is key in parking management and planning as drivers, operators and municipal administrators share data on how parking is used. “With multiple private vendors providing part of the smart parking solution (pay stations, mobile LPR enforcement, foot patrols with PDAs, sensor solutions and off-street lots) to cities, there is a need to consolidate data to provide the full picture of what is going on in the city. Occupancy rates, compliance rates, payment and permit types and dwell times are just some of the key data that cities and universities are trying to obtain,” Bradner said.

What SIs should know

As with other types of projects, smart parking projects require the integrator to get a full understanding of the user’s needs and requirements before deployment. “Integrators need to understand what type and how often end users need data to make decisions about their facility. Everyone has a different definition of smart parking, so understanding the needs of the end users will allow the integrator to select the right solution, solve the problems identified, and meet the customers’ expectations,” Bradner said.

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