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Both parking and traffic congestion are constant sources of driver frustration in most cities around the world, not to mention the public officials tasked with resolving these issues. As cities look to implement new technologies in the race to smart city stardom, smart parking solutions and innovation in traffic congestion are often the first projects.

New York City recently proposed charging drivers a fee to pass through more congested areas. As you can see, cities are taking desperate measures.

What is “smart” parking?

Smart parking, in simple terms, is using technology to find out which parking spaces are occupied or available and often using this data to create a real time parking map.

A real time parking map can then be used in a number of ways, including:

  • Helping drivers find parking easily and quickly through an app
  • Relaying information for parking officials to identify violations
  • Prompting people to use alternate transportation options in the case of parking congestion

What’s the technology behind smart parking?

As mentioned above, smart parking usually means: 1. Finding out which parking spaces are available and 2. Creating a real time parking map.

To find available or occupied spaces, sensors can be embedded into the ground or cameras can be installed on light poles, building exteriors, etc. Image detection software turns pictures from installed cameras into real time occupancy data. Sensors detect the presence of a vehicle in a particular parking spot.

You may have seen parking garages equipped with small lights above each parking space that are red when a spot is taken and green if a spot is available. This is enabled by sensors above each spot that detect if a car has occupied the space. This helps drivers looking for parking find an open spot more quickly and cuts down on congestion inside parking structures.

Once the given technology has determined the available spaces, the data is routed wirelessly to a gateway (What is a gateway, you ask? Here’s a simple explanation.) and relayed to a cloud-based smart parking platform. This data, aggregated with other parking availability data, then creates a real-time map.

Who benefits from smart parking?

Easier and more efficient parking benefits a number of key players in the smart city ecosystem, some in ways you might not be aware of.

1) Drivers

The ability to view real time parking options reduces the stress and unpredictability of finding a place to park. It also eliminates a barrier that might keep a driver from venturing to an urban area, in fear that there won’t be accessible or affordable parking available.

2) Cities

Easier transit can greatly improve the quality of life for citizens. First, it increases access to opportunities in communities and boosts the economy. It may be difficult for people in your city keep a job and contribute to the local economy if they constantly have trouble getting to work and finding a place to park. Second, decreasing traffic and parking congestion makes for a better, and safer, experience for pedestrians and cyclists to get around your city as well.

Decreasing vehicle travel time also reduces emissions and makes for a cleaner city for all residents.

3) Businesses

Smart parking can help drive people to local businesses by making it easy for customers to find parking in the area and get to businesses faster.

Unfortunately, there are a limited number of smart parking solutions in the market today. Typical roadblocks include a lack of existing infrastructure, limited budgets, and security concerns related to connected devices.

As these solutions become more accessible and affordable through increased adoption of new technologies enabled by the Internet of Things, we should see smarter and more efficient parking in cities around the world.

Have Questions? Talk to an Expert

Isabel Harner

Isabel is Director of Marketing at Leverege and a 2017 Venture for America Fellow. She's passionate about technology and it's intersection with daily life, art, and science.

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