At this year’s IPI (International Parking Institute) trade show and conference, the hottest discussions were on how parking is changing and how new developments in parking and transportation tie into the concept and benefits of the smart city.
So what’s a smart city?
A smart city is a municipality that fosters a synergistic relationship among people, infrastructure, and technology, enabling it to operate as efficiently as possible. Even more important than efficiency, however, is that the city’s ultimate goal is to create a pleasant user experience for its residents and visitors.
According to our own Tim Taylor, the first step to building a smart city is to start collecting data on the usage patterns of the people who live there. That data is rich with the information you need in order to decide which services to add or rework to improve the user experience.
For example, Oscar Delgado, an IPI attendee and the Director of Public Work for the City of Hollywood, pointed out that it’s possible to use infrastructure you already have to begin collecting the data you need. If your city has smart parking meters, for example, they can do much more than just generate revenue and encourage parking turnover: “Now you have parking meters giving you real information about who is visiting your city, how long they are staying, what are the areas they are going to.”
Parking in smart cities
The buzz phrase when it comes to parking in smart cities is “the right information at the right time”. Taylor says that now, with the internet at their fingertips at home and work, people also expect internet connectivity in cities. They’re looking for on-demand, current information to help them make informed decisions about parking and transportation:
How long will the bus take to get to my stop?
How many parking spots are available in this garage?
How long do I have before my parking meter expires?
So how can a city provide the right information at the right time for its citizens? Well, here are a few tips from today’s smart cities.
Implement wifi. Wifi is the cornerstone of smart cities and as mentioned above, today’s consumers demand it.
Deploy internet-connected sensors to monitor parking availability or bus routes.
Study the data you’ve collected and use it to create apps to address the greatest transportation needs in your city. Connect an app to parking space sensors. Allow in-app payments for parking spaces and tickets.
To get it right with smart city parking means focusing on the citizens, Taylor says. Creating a space that people are happy to visit “makes the city run more efficiently, more effectively”.
The future of parking
We chatted with a lot of parking professionals at IPI 2017, and almost every one of them mentioned rideshare apps and automated vehicles as two technologies that will soon change the face of parking and smart city traffic management. Most people were quick to clarify, though, that the rise of automated vehicles doesn’t mean parking is disappearing, or even dwindling — in fact, quite the opposite (automated vehicles have to park somewhere, too).
One new wave of parking technology that helps cities make the best use of their space — and could help store all those automated vehicles — is the automated parking garage. Tim Taylor chatted with two representatives, Oscar Delgado and Paul Aravalo, from West Hollywood where the city has made a huge investment in developing them. (In an automated parking garage, the driver exits the car, uses a kiosk to activate the storage process, and the garage’s automated mechanisms take it from there.)
Another thing we heard from the parking pros is that in the future of parking, parking will be a no-brainer. That is, thanks to the Internet of Things, parking will become more and more integrated with everyday life until it becomes almost completely automated.
Parking rights will be stored in the cloud instead of posted on signs or enforced by ticket booths, and drivers will be able to connect to the parking management system with an app to pay for their parking. In place of officers leaving parking tickets on the windshield, they’ll email them to drivers. And since parking rights are stored in the cloud, parking violations will be practically indisputable, meaning tickets get paid right away, officers waste less time in traffic court, and the city saves money.
If you take one thing away from our debrief from IPI 2017, make it this: a city isn’t smart unless its citizens are happy. Use technology to collect data on the ways people get around your city, then use the data to create a traffic management system for your smart city that improves the user experience until it is seamless.