IoT Blog
IoT Blog

Smart City Parking: Harnessing the Power of IoT to Make Urban Life Easier

by Remy Marcotorchino, Director of Marketing, Industrial & Infrastructure
Our cities are jam-packed with drivers circling downtown streets, looking for those increasingly rare parking spaces. As much as 30 percent of cars on the road at any given moment are actively searching for parking spaces, and it can take 20 minutes or more to find a space in the busiest metropolitan areas. This constant search for available parking is putting a serious strain on both traffic congestion and city resources. 

However, for the first time, the IoT could provide a viable, cost-effective and lasting remedy to this problem. City planners now have the technology to build smart city parking solutions for their commuters and tourists, which will result in higher quality of life for urban dwellers. Major cities around the world can install this advanced IoT technology on its busiest streets and parking garages. 

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Why You Need Smart Parking Solutions in Urban Areas
Smart parking solutions have three major benefits for both cities and commuters: 

First, it’s easier for drivers to find IoT-equipped parking spaces, which will result in fewer traffic jams. Right now, we can install sensors in parking spaces that tell drivers from a great distance whether parking is available or not. Rather than scanning the road only a few car lengths ahead to look for parking, a driver could see a green-lighted open space hundreds of feet ahead, and get to that open space quickly. In this scenario, the driver spends less time on the road looking for parking, and doesn’t slow down as often to check whether a space is open. It may even be possible to simply tell your car you’re ready to park, and then, GPS could direct you to the closest available spot.

Second, municipalities can get more revenue from smart city parking solutions. You can integrate the IoT using smart parking meters or garages that interact with a mobile app, allowing drivers to pay more efficiently over the cloud. Alternatively, you can gather data on which areas are the busiest, and focus on building more parking infrastructure in these regions, which results in more city parking revenue. Plus, you won’t need to pay to maintain traditional parking meters when drivers can pay over the cloud.

Finally, cities that have better parking infrastructure will attract more tourism, especially from within the region. In-state drivers who live just outside of the city are more likely to make a weekend trip downtown if they know that parking is available and easy to use. 

IoT Makes Parking Spaces More Visible 
The primary motivator that’s driving city planners to install smart parking solutions is centered around parking space visibility. To do this, one solution is to install a motion sensor in every space; then, add a low-power smart module that connects the sensor to the cloud directly or via a gateway. The motion sensor can detect whether a car is currently in the parking space; the light above the sensor will show up as green if the space is open, and red if the space is occupied. Drivers can quickly see this information on their mobile, more or less in real time, so they can plan their parking maneuver well in advance. We can say goodbye to cases where a driver slams on the brakes to grab a spot. And you’ll no longer find yourself psyched out when you speed toward a space only to find that it’s occupied by a motorcycle. 

But that’s not all that IoT parking can do. When you connect your motion sensors onto an IoT platform, you can collect data and feed real-time information to a mobile app that lets drivers and their passengers know which spaces are available at any given moment. For instance, a driver might look online before leaving to see which areas of the city have the most available parking. In addition, the app might integrate with existing navigation apps to automatically route the driver to the next available space. This is why it’s important to use an IoT platform like AirVantage, which integrates perfectly with your hardware sensors and cloud app. 

Integrate Your Parking with Payment Apps 

Parking meters and ticket stubs can be costly to maintain, and they definitely aren’t convenient for drivers. Parking machines that take credit cards usually require drivers to print a pass. This costs the city thousands of dollars because the municipality must keep the printers equipped with ink and paper. Cities also have to pay meter monitors to check whether cars have paid for parking or not, and to empty cash meters. With the IoT technology that we have right now, it’s possible to eliminate these expensive machines for good. City planners can integrate their smart city parking solutions with mobile cloud payment apps—the driver simply pays for parking through the app.

From here, you can instantly see which spaces are currently occupied, how long they’ve been occupied and whether the driver has paid for parking or not. This allows parking monitors to target only the spaces that haven’t been paid for, rather than scanning the entire city for parking violations. IoT parking apps save parking monitors time and help them catch more violations, resulting in more parking revenue for the city. You could even install cameras to capture the license plate of the vehicle, allowing for an automated ticketing system for delinquent drivers who fail to pay. Additionally, the best integrated apps will have end-to-end cellular security installed from the start, making these cloud payments extremely safe for drivers. 

Collect Important Data 

Perhaps the best benefit of smart city parking solutions comes from the mounds of data you can gather in every space. Beyond telling drivers where to park and taking payments over the cloud, you can also have the parking sensors send alerts whenever the space is in need of repairs, or signal to emergency responders in the event of an accident. If your city is trying to be more environmentally conscious, you can also install air quality monitors along with your motion sensors, which can tell you what the air quality is like in different areas of the city at different times of the day, month or year. Most importantly, you can automatically track which parking spaces get the most use, and which spaces are rarely used. This helps you decide where you might need to build more parking and where you can safely scale back. 

The most important tip to remember before you decide to create your own smart city parking solutions is to use hardware and cloud platforms that you can customize to your specific needs. Every city has different parking infrastructure and data collecting needs, which is why you might consider using Sierra Wireless’ modules, AirVantage platform and connectivity. All of the equipment ties in seamlessly from the start, and you can decide exactly which platform features you want to leverage when you configure and connect your devices. 

Using Sierra Wireless’ tools, you can bring your city into the modern age and make parking a fun, rather than stressful, experience for your drivers. Start with Sierra and contact our IoT experts to learn more about IoT technology for smart parking solutions.