In the October/November 2015 edition of Traffic Technology International magazine we spoke to three industry experts about the future of DSRC in the connected-vehicle realm.
Smart parking solutions offer citizens peace of mind and helps budget deficits, traffic jams and pollution
Smart Cities are gaining traction today as urban living has become increasingly challenging. Among many problems, finding a vacant parking spot is probably one of the biggest nuisances for citizens’ daily routines. Indeed, statistics confirm that in a metropolitan of more than one million inhabitants, they would typically search for parking spaces for more than 15 minutes. Smart and wireless parking solutions not only guide people to vacant parking spaces but can also decrease pollution and help significantly in improving municipalities’ budget deficits by €10 million per year. If your city is medium/large in size, has a lot of congestion, suffers from seasonal influx of people unfamiliar with your city’s roads, has punctual events such as football matches, concerts, etc, and/or a lot of parking lots in shopping malls, airports, etc, you should read on!
Troubles with urban parking
Traffic is conditioning our daily commutes to and from work, our shopping experiences, our spare time activities, etc. This has not only been quantified by IBM’s Commuter Pain Index as one of the worst activities in our daily routine but also found to have crippling effects on the economy, time efficiency, and ultimately personal time wasted that could be spent which kids and family, among many other issues.
Indeed, 80% of our travels are dedicated to the local commute between work/leisure and home, with the majority of time dedicated to navigating through traffic jams and then finding a vacant parking spot. Municipalities have tried to alleviate this problem by introducing more public transport and alternative travel strategies, such as bicycle schemes, but with limited success. Traffic jams are still there. People are still looking frantically for parking. In Madrid, for example, the search takes 13 minutes, in Barcelona 15 minutes and in Granada it takes 26 minutes – statistics for other cities in the world show a similar trend. The time to address this problem is now!
Although a seemingly trifling matter, this manic search for parking availability has an enormous repercussion on the finances of a municipality, both in a direct as well as an indirect manner. Direct financial losses for city halls result from an inefficient parking place utilization. Indeed, people circulating and searching for parking do not occupy available places simply because they do not know where they are. Another important loss is the inability of current systems to immediately spot a parking infringer – i.e. those having no parking ticket or an expired parking ticket as well as those people having parked in locations where parking is prohibited. As for the indirect financial losses to city halls, they can be attributed to people spending less time shopping, their working efficiency declining, an increased number of accidents due to distraction while searching, and an enormous pollution and consequently long-term health effects. A solution to overcome the problem is hence urgently needed.
Smart parking solutions
Very few companies are able to meet the stringent requirements of an on-street real-time parking system. Worldsensing, however, does, with its very popular FastPrk product.
Figure 1 illustrates the core components for a city hall. The hardware in the field essentially consists of a parking node on each parking spot and a gateway guaranteeing internet connectivity. The software in the control center comprises the data and application server hosting the control platform, the actual control software platform allowing to display, analyze and control data from street, as well as a sophisticated user account management system for the same municipality. The system also includes all equipment needed for law enforcement to issue parking tickets quickly and efficiently, in doing so guaranteeing quick return on investment.
Figure 1: Worldsensing’s FastPrk product for city halls and parking operators, composed of sensors in the street and a powerful control platform (right)
Figure 2 illustrates the usage of the smart parking technology by citizens. Essentially, the they can download a smartphone application, which among other information indicates clearly the availability of available parking spots. In addition, panels are available that guide drivers who do not own smartphones.
Figure 2: Worldsensing’s FastPrk product for guiding citizens quickly to vacant parking spots, composed of a smartphone application and panels in the street (below)
Characteristics and benefits
Worldsensing’s smart parking solution has some key differentiators compared to other solutions in the market. To start with, the parking nodes are embedded into tarmac, in doing so preventing vandalism while also making it easier for street-cleaning machines. Also, the node packaging is a patented casing which facilitates simple maintenance and replacement. Furthermore, the electronics use an unprecedented 200 microwatts and as a result enjoy lifetimes well beyond five years. Finally, the wireless technology is secure and allows for long-range multi-hop communications. As for the gateways, they are small, robust and consume very little power and can therefore be operated with solar panels. As for the city-wide or private parking control platform, it enjoys cutting-edge data management, analysis and display features. Hosted on a server or Cloud, it allows for quick, secure and robust scalability and is compliant with some of the most advanced ‘Smart City’ platforms, such as the one from IBM.
Return on investment
Such advanced smart parking technology clearly doesn’t come for free. However, installing the technology allows the municipality to quickly recoup the investment and subsequently dramatically improve its budget deficit.
The direct benefits to a municipality come from two sources – an improved rotational efficiency of the regulated parking spots and improved ability to trace infringers. As for the improved rotational efficiency, statistics suggest that within one hour the place is typically only used 45 minutes, in doing so allowing for an improvement of 15 minutes at best and typically around eight minutes. With a European average of €2 per place per hour, the additional average financial gain is in the order of €400 per year, so with 10,000 regulated parking spaces this equates to an additional income of €4 million per year.
As for infringers, although statistics suggest that three out of 10 spaces have and infringement per day, on average only one is detected. If FastPrk technology is used to detect only one additional infringer, then the average additional benefit – assuming the European average of €30 fine per ticket and 10,000 regulated spaces – yields €6 million per year! The indirect benefits come from a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. For instance, the typical European average of 15 minutes searching time in a metropolitan of one million inhabitants, pollutes a 2,300 metric tons of CO2 per day. Introducing a bicycle scheme yields a saving of five tonnes CO2 per day. Using FastPrk and reducing the search quest by three minutes only – i.e. from 15 minutes to 12 minutes – yields a saving of 481 tonnes of CO2 per day. Even a minimal improvement therefore has an impact two orders of magnitude larger than cycling schemes.
In summary, using smart parking technology from Worldsensing allows a municipality to have an average additional income of €10 million per 10,000 regulated spaces per year (where benefits scale linearly with parking places) and a reduction of 1,300 tonnes of CO2 per day. Additionally, similar benefit calculations – mainly due to an increased shopping force – can be drawn for outdoor and indoor parking areas. The direct and indirect benefits are summarized and illustrated in Figure 3 and Figure 4.
Figure 3: Financial and environmental benefits for regulated onstreet parking spaces, assuming the averages discussed in the text
Worldsensing has grown very quickly into one of the world’s leading providers of such Smart City solutions with its FastPrk product key among its portfolio. Labeled by the prestigious Pike Research as one of the 17 companies actively shaping the Smart City eco system, the company has received major press coverage, such as in the Wall Street Journal and various TV programs. It has won two major awards: the Stockholm Smart City Living Labs Global Award 2011 and the IBM Smart Camp 2010 London Award. It has representation worldwide and runs a rewarding partnership program with local partners in many countries.
For more information about the products and their benefits – as well as Worldsensing’s partnership program – please, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
 Eric Gantelet and Amélie Lefauconnier, “The Time Looking For A Parking Space: Strategies, Associated Nuisances And Stakes Of Parking Management In France,” available online.
 Journal “Revista Consumer”, year 2000.
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