Parking Management Systems Aim to Aid Drivers, Reduce Urban Congestion
A few companies have adopted wireless communications as a way reducing upfront costs. Some have moved to battery-operated wireless sensors to cut implementation costs even more. But as is the case with technology hardware, price and capability breakthroughs happen. In the world of parking management, one company has dramatically lowered the price bar by selling its sensors for an average of $40 each. Parkifi, based in Denver, has produced a sensor for its parking management system that's the size and shape of a hockey puck. Deploying the sensor requires only that the sensor be glued to the pavement at each parking space. In areas where snow is a problem, the sensor can be mounted flush with the pavement surface. Parkifi CEO and cofounder Ryan Sullivan explained that the company's sensor measures changes in the Earth's magnetic field to detect when a car is parked in a space it's monitoring. The sensor then reports the arrival of a car to a wireless gateway, which then passes the information to a cloud-based service that can see all of the sensors in the space. The cloud-based application can see all of the sensors in a facility and detect when someone hasn't parked properly, such as when a car takes up two spaces. Such an event is common when snow may obscure parking space markings, he said.There are other types of sensors as well. Park Assist uses ceiling-mounted sensors with cameras to identify vehicles by their license plates. The images can also be used to monitor parking facility security. Other systems use radar detection and heat signatures. However, in some locations, the use of license plates to identify parkers raises privacy concerns that may limit their use. Another trend taking place in urban areas may make these parking management systems even more valuable. Here in Washington, for example, the city has tripled the price of on-street parking and instituted a hyper-aggressive parking enforcement practice that has turned on-street parking into a profit center, whether drivers park for the allowed amount of time or whether they get very expensive tickets for overstaying their welcome. In such cities, parking lot and garage operators will find that drivers will be grateful for any parking management technology that helps them find spaces or avoid tickets. Because of its relatively low cost and flexibility, systems such as those from Parkifi that can keep implementation and operation costs under control will find a willing audience on the part of parking operators and drivers.
Sullivan also noted the sensors include Bluetooth hardware, which can be used for a variety of purposes including providing a way for monthly parkers to identify themselves to the parking management system using their phones. Other parking management system providers, including Nedap and Streetline, make similar sensors but without the Bluetooth.