Smart city solutions – Smart Parking Lots

Smart city solutions – Smart Parking Lots

Smart city solutions – Smart Parking Lots
Parking lots have largely been ignored when it comes to technological innovations and ideas. However with the number of cars on the street increasing, and along with it the time taken to park, the parking problem will now have to be addressed effectively. Devavrat Kulkarni, Senior Business Analyst at Maven Systems Pvt. Ltd shares his insight on Smart parking as part of Smart-City Initiative

What’s wrong with normal parking?

Simply put, normal parking is inefficient, frustrating and time-consuming. Driving around after arriving at a mall or a multiplex is annoying while searching for a parking spot in a hospital parking lot is nerve-wracking. The issue at hand is simple parking lots have been ignored while automobiles have been making huge strides. However, that is about to change. Frost & Sullivan report that the current global $100 billion industry is looking at investments to the tune of $200-$250 million till 2019. Navigant Research believes that by 2020 we could be looking at around a million smart parking spaces worldwide.

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How to bring about the revolution?

So what makes off- street parking lots so difficult to work with? For starters they are huge, they are multi-layered, and frankly people have almost accepted trying to find a free space as a part and parcel of life. However there have been pilots and experimental setups and the results, while in their infancy, are promising.
One example is Baltimore / Washington Airport that has huge boards which guide towards free spaces. However they do not use occupancy sensors, so they cannot guide the driver right up to the parking space but rather to an approximate location. On the other hand a team from RICE University has developed a model where camera is used to click minute by minute photos of the parking lots. These photos are then analyzed by a computer, and using object detection algorithm the fee spaces are found and communicated to the user.
However there is still a lot of room for development and improvement in this segment.

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A smart solution

A truly smart parking system should not only be aware of the occupancy status of each parking space, but also be able to guide the user to it. All of this should happen with no human intervention. A smart solution would have the following parts:
Occupancy sensors
As mentioned before each parking space should be taken into account by the system. Multiple types of sensors can be used for this work. However, the accuracy of the sensors cannot be compromised upon, a minimum number of false positives is a must. As the number of sensors increases their cost will reduce drastically. When the status of the sensors changes they will report it to a gateway device.

The issues to be tackled here are battery life, positioning of sensor and communication channel. As there will be a large number of sensors, wiring them for energy is out of the question. As a result these sensors have to be battery powered, and consequently must have power management algorithms. The enclosure of the sensors will have to take into account the positioning of the sensors. If installed in the open, the sensors need to be protected from heat, dust, rain, bugs and other natural phenomena, installed on the floor of the parking lot the sensors need to be able to take the weight of the car without malfunctioning or breaking down. In order to keep the number of gateway devices to a minimum, the servers must communicate on a technology that has a long reach like RF , or must work on a mesh protocol, so that the status change will reach the gateway by hopping.

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Gateway devices

These gateway devices will be used to collect the status from the sensors and then send them to the server. The gateways will work on wireless technology to transmit the status.

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