Finding the nearest parking spot is an everyday challenge for drivers. Unfortunately, parking is largely inefficient and time-consuming. Especially in urban areas, we waste a lot of fuel before we can find a vacant space. And sometimes we cannot remember exactly where we have parked.
Parking is not only a problem for the drivers but also for the city officials. In the case of on-street parking, municipalities usually have a tight budget with which to install and operate parking meters. Moreover, if they could guide drivers to certain parking spots, for example, via dynamic pricing of vacancies, they could also influence traffic congestion and, to an extent, air pollution.
There are many groups working on smart parking. As an example, Dr. Andrew W.H. Ip and his research team at PolyU's Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering have designed an IoT-based system which utilizes wireless sensors along with a mobile app to find the nearby vacant spots and direct the drivers to their preferred places via GPS.
Another interesting solution is offered by CloudParc. This IoT-based technology tries to make parking more convenient for drivers while increasing municipalities’ revenue.
CloudParc’s On-Street Smart Parking
CloudParc employs IoT tech, machine vision, and mobile apps to eliminate the usual parking meters. Machine vision, along with a mobile app, allows the drivers to find the nearest parking spot. Installing high-resolution connected cameras on light poles, the technology is able to monitor the street and spot the vacant places. Since a camera can cover a relatively wide area, the cost of the technology is lower than conventional parking meters.
The data obtained by the camera can be processed to determine how long the car has been parked and identify the user via license plate recognition. Hence, the smart parking system can automatically bill the user and eliminate the costs associated with ticket issuance and collection.
Machine vision can identify the user's car and monitor how long it has parked. Image courtesy of CloudParc.
Other Advantages of the CloudParc
We can gain some other advantages out of this technology. For example, dynamic pricing would be much easier with this system. City officials could dynamically change the cost of parking spots based on the day and time so that they could partially reduce congestion especially when an event is taking place.
Moreover, it would be possible to give a higher priority to disabled drivers. Based on the data obtained by the technology, it would be easier to determine which parts of the city need more parking spots. In addition, the air pollution related to the drivers looking for a parking spot would be significantly reduced.
Although each company and research team may employ different design strategies, some general considerations are the same in almost any IoT-based parking solution.
General Hardware Considerations
Sensors are used to recognize occupied parking spots compared to vacant ones. To prevent errors, we should not compromise the accuracy of these sensors. Better accuracy can be achieved by simply increasing the number of the devices. Since these sensors are usually battery-powered, power management algorithms are indispensable. We would also need to determine the location of the sensors and the method by which the sensors would communicate with the gateway devices––the devices that gather the information from the sensors and sends that to the processor.
To reduce the number of gateway devices and consequently reduce the cost, the sensors would need to utilize long-reach communication. Hence, wireless communication would be preferred. A single gateway device could communicate with as many as 500 sensors.
A server would then process the data obtained from the gateway devices and let the users know which parking spots are vacant. To show the path and directions to the users, the server would then have to communicate via a mobile app. As a result, it would need to support both GPRS and RF communications. In addition, the server would need access to a map of the street or the parking structure for the on-street and off-street cases, respectively.
The market of smart parking, both on- and off-street, is in its infancy and has a lot of room for new ideas. Many entrepreneurs and business folks are investing their time and money into facilitating smarter parking and, of course, earning a great deal of money in the process.