Creating Better Cities With IoT/M2M Smarter Parking

Most drivers are intimately familiar with the maddening experience of riding around a few square blocks endlessly, looking for a place to park. Particularly in urban centers, finding an empty space can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. To add insult to injury, drivers who rush to an appointment and park without carefully reading regulations may come back to find a costly ticket awaiting. How will M2M and IoT gateways change the parking landscape?

Recognizing the congestion and general frustration parking causes, forward-thinking municipalities are implementing "smart" parking programs using sophisticated machine-to-machine (M2M) technology. These programs could eliminate or substantially reduce many of the current parking problems in cities and towns around the country, according to a recent report from Beecham Research.

"Road systems provide the vital arteries for commercial and business activities but parking has become a major problem in all cities," said Dr. Therese Cory, the report's principal author, in an analyst note. "Early smart parking apps may appear to be a novelty, but they are just the start and alleviating parking congestion could deliver major benefits by helping to eliminate time wastage, cut petrol consumption and reduce harmful exhaust emissions."

In some of the smart parking trials currently taking place in cities like San Francisco and Moscow, drivers use smartphone apps to access data collected from parking space sensors which is converted into a map of all the free spaces available and their rates . Similar to a GPS system—which factors current traffic conditions into its route recommendations— a parking map feature makes it quick and easy for drivers to find the best possible spot available. Automotive manufacturers are also working toward making this feature available on in-car telematic displays.

The London borough of Westminster is currently in the first phase of its smart parking initiative to install 3,000 smart parking bays. A free app gives residents a map of available parking spaces and provides a navigation feature that actually directs drivers to free spaces near their destinations. This functionality will limit the time drivers search for spots, thereby reducing emissions and congestion. Additionally, drivers can use the app to:

  • Pay for parking

  • Securely monitor and extend parking sessions remotely

  • Receive reminders about where they parked

  • Have payment receipts emailed to them

  • View all transactions online

Smart parking holds advantages for smaller cities as well. Burlington, Vermont recently approved the purchase of 300 digital meters equipped with "downtown wayfinding" that makes it easier for drivers to locate free spaces. The new meters will also remove frustrating parking time limits; facilitate data collection to help assess the program's impact; allow for an automated lane in the Church Street Marketplace Parking Garage that facilitates quicker, easier exiting.

The key to creating successful smart parking systems in all cities will be adjusting the M2M value chain to work effectively at the lowest possible cost. Small companies with state-of-the-art technologies will need to work with municipalities and service providers to collaborate on more efficient use of M2M technology. When cars are parked they stop moving—but the parking industry is going forward quite rapidly.