Smart parking: a smart city innovation that could revolutionise transport

Smart parking: the next big focus for smart cities
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Government Europa looks at smart parking and how it is being integrated into smart city regimes.

As the world becomes more technologically advanced, cities have been a major beneficiary. The European Commission is continuously working to create and improve smart cities throughout the continent, which use information and communication technologies (ICT) to maximise the use of resources and to reduce emissions. Technologies being pursued to improve the cities of the future include smarter transport systems, upgraded water systems/waste disposal facilities and more efficient ways to provide heat and light to buildings.

Smart parking leads in innovative ideas for smart city initiatives

Smart cities maintain a focus on areas in which digital and telecommunication technologies can benefit citizens, industries, small businesses (SMEs), banks and more. In pursuing connected and technological solutions for citizens, these cities are pursuing innovation in a wide variety of sectors across society. In transport, much has been made of smart parking, which allows drivers to access information on available parking spaces before they even set off on their journey.

To facilitate the growth of this technology, the European Parking Association (EPA) is working alongside many members and associates, using technology to make parking easier, quicker, less stressful and more cost efficient for organisations and businesses alike.

The EPA’s latest partner is EasyPark, which has the largest coverage of parking spaces in Europe, with a presence in almost 600 cities. The EasyPark app helps people find a parking spot using sensors which connect to the application and can tell which spaces are available and which are in use. The technology used in the app then allows the driver to pay for their parking with the touch of a button.

According to EPA President Laurence Bannerman, the app has already made parking significantly easier for users: “EasyPark’s mission connects well with EPA’s own wishes to improve services for motorists by providing easy and generally accepted cashless payment systems.”

The majority of smart parking sensors use both infrared and magnetic technology to detect individual car parking space information. These sensors are generally embedded into the ground, and therefore do not interfere with the parking space or create an obstacle for drivers when trying to park. Some parking sensors also include cameras or counting equipment, to provide additional data.

Smart parking strategies using apps like EasyPark can help reduce emissions, as with dedicated parking spaces available, drivers do not need to drive around car park facilities endlessly until they find a space. Instead, these apps enable them to drive to an available slot without wasting time or fuel.

The use of sensors in parking spaces and related technologies could also help SMEs and other organisations to grow revenue and cut costs. The sensors can generate data about how long people are staying in the spaces for, which spaces are being used, and which spaces are not. From this collection of data, parking can be managed to make it more cost effective, and additional spaces can be made available where they are needed.

European Commission funded ‘Eltis’ announces smart parking in Hamburg

Smart parking in smart cities can improve not just business opportunities, but also the quality of life for residents and the general operation of the city and its transport links. The European Commission’s focus on smart city initiatives has allowed for more research to take place regarding smart parking. More recently, the commission’s support and finance of Eltis, which focuses on urban transport mobility in Europe, has led to the development of new solutions in ‘intelligent’ parking in Hamburg, Germany.

Eltis reported that in January of this year: ‘The Department of Home Affairs and Sports and the state Traffic Authority presented a solution for smart park management in the city of Hamburg together with Deutsche Telekom.’

The commission’s funding has also led to the development of the ‘Park and Joy’ app, which uses information from sensors embedded into parking spaces to allow road users to quickly and easily find a parking space in a manner similar to EasyPark. Once a driver leaves the car park, the ticket is paid electronically via the mobile app.

The ‘Park and Joy’ app requires the driver to enter their destination before they set off on their journey, and can then book an available parking space for them. The app then leads the driver to their selected parking space, and the duration of their stay in the space can be extended or shortened as the driver wishes. The app takes the payment for the parking space electronically, making it especially convenient for drivers in a hurry.

If implemented on a wide scale, this technology could lead to fewer parking fines being imposed; if drivers can add more time to their parking space reservation with the click of a button, wherever they are, they will be much less likely to overstay their time in a space. This smart parking app could save drivers time and stress in finding a parking space, and consequently result in more efficient journeys throughout the cities of the future.

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