As a company that provides its customers with smart parking and other solutions that make travel easier, faster, and safer for more than 100 million weekly users around the world, Flowbird Group’s business depends on secure, reliable, and cost-effective connectivity.
So when the company was evaluating a new IoT connectivity services provider for its Flowbird smart parking solutions business in Sweden, it cast a careful eye on all the available options. In doing so, Flowbird drew on the extensive wireless connectivity experience it began acquiring in the early 1990s, when it first connected its parking terminals to cellular wireless networks.
Flowbird’s conclusion? Expand on its existing relationship with Sierra Wireless in France, the US and Australia, and use the company’s Smart Connectivity service to securely collect and send data to its IoT-enabled parking terminals in Sweden.
With roots in the parking business going back almost 70 years, Flowbird has established its position as a market leader by continuously updating its smart parking solutions to meet the evolving needs of its customers.
For example, based on customer feedback and user behavior, Flowbird enhanced its smart parking solutions with mobile apps that use the IoT to enable customers to pay for parking using their smartphone rather than coins, bills, or credit cards. It also developed cloud-based parking management software that delivers cities, campuses, parking garages and Flowbird’s other customers detailed data on parking availability and payments, as well as valuable insights on customer, parking location, and other trends.
Flowbird is also continuously upgrading its parking terminals. Its latest parking terminal, the compact S5, features a high efficiency solar panel, 4G LTE modem, crystal clear 9-inch touch screen, image and motion video support, and a digital receipt option.
“Our commitment to continuous innovation is one of the key reasons why Stockholm and the other four largest cities in Sweden use Flowbird’s smart parking solutions,” said Anton Kaya, CEO of Flowbird Sverige AB and Deputy Managing Director, Smart City.
Yet, all the value that comes from this innovation depends on Flowbird’s ability to transmit data from its parking terminals to the cloud and back. For example, its terminals have to securely send parking customer payment information to the cloud to process parking transactions for these customers. Flowbird also needs to collect data on its parking terminals’ battery levels and operating status to ensure they are working properly, or if they need to dispatch a maintenance crew to fix a problem.
Just as importantly, Flowbird has to be able to remotely update its terminals’ operating systems, firmware, and application configuration files, to ensure they have their latest user interface, current parking prices, and security patches. With the S5 and its other new terminals it also needs to be able to send images and video for display on the terminals’ screens.
“For us, IoT connectivity is business critical – without it, our smart parking solutions simply do not work,” said Anton Kaya.
Sierra Wireless’ Smart Connectivity service delivers Flowbird the secure, reliable IoT connectivity its business needs. The Smart Connectivity service includes smart Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMs) that can connect to different Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). Using these smart SIMs, Flowbird’s parking terminals can connect to whichever LTE network in the area provides the strongest connection. And if this MNO’s LTE network goes down for some reason? The smart SIM can instantly switch to another MNO’s LTE network.
Meanwhile, Smart Connectivity protects customer’s payment information and other data from cyberattacks using advanced physical, network, and encryption security technologies. This layered approach to cybersecurity helps Flowbird implement a Defense-in-Depth approach to IoT security that prevents malicious actors from using a single vulnerability to access parking payment transaction or other sensitive data.
Smart Connectivity also provides Flowbird with a management platform that delivers them a unified view of all their Sierra Wireless Smart SIMs and edge devices, allowing them to monitor and optimize these devices’ connectivity. Sierra Wireless complements this management platform with its Global Network Operation Center (GNOC), which monitors Flowbird’s connectivity 24/7/365. This constant monitoring helps prevent service disruptions from occurring in the first place — and when they do occur, the GNOC works directly with the MNOs to fix any network outage problems.
In addition, unlike many MNOs, Sierra Wireless developed a pricing model for Smart Connectivity designed to meet the needs of IoT connectivity customers like Flowbird – not smart phone users. This transparent, message-based pricing model enables Flowbird to accurately predict how much Sierra Wireless’ Smart Connectivity service will cost, while also ensuring they only pay for the data they need, when they need it.
In addition to using Sierra Wireless’ Smart Connectivity service to deliver connectivity to its S5 and other parking terminals in Sweden, Flowbird sees opportunities to further expand its partnership with Sierra Wireless with its next generation of smart parking solutions.
“We are considering how we can use the IoT to integrate temperature, air quality and other sensors into our terminals – allowing them to help our customers better monitor environmental and other conditions in their communities,” said Anton Kaya. “In collaboration with partners like Sierra Wireless, we feel confident that if we add these capabilities to our solutions, we will have the business-critical IoT connectivity we need to provide cities with not just transport intelligence, but also urban intelligence – intelligence they can use to make their communities smarter, safer, and more liveable.”
Start with Sierra to learn more about how Smart Connectivity and other Sierra Wireless solutions can provide your company with the business critical IoT connectivity it needs to unlock value in the connected economy.
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