Like most Canadians with a driver’s licence (or any global citizen for that matter), you’ve probably spent an inordinate amount of time looking for a parking space or stuck in snarled traffic.
There are all sorts of stats out there about how much time and energy (literally —think of all that gas and the resulting carbon dioxide greenhouse gases) is wasted in urban centres by driving around in circles looking for a parking space.
But parking is typically the second- or third-largest source of revenue for cities, both from meters and parking tickets. So cities should start thinking of parking spaces as strategic real estate, says Zia Yusef, CEO of Streetline, who spoke to media at Cisco Live in San Francisco last week.
And that’s where the Internet of Everything (IoE) comes in. Cisco, for its part, expects that over the next 10 years public-sector organizations will derive one-third of their productivity from 40 identified IoE-enabled solutions — and that includes parking.
Streetline has teamed up with Cisco to integrate its low-power mesh network with Cisco’s Smart+Connected City WiFi through the Connected Grid Router (CGR). This can manage up to 500 vehicle sensors.
By creating a smart parking platform, a city can then use analytics to solve various parking and traffic dilemmas. This helps to maximize revenues from parking spaces, but it could also help to ease traffic congestion and reduce wasted fuel consumption. (Personally, I’d like to see some analytics on how it might reduce road rage.)
The key currency of this century is insight — and the IoE can help cities turn raw data into insight to make better decisions. That’s the Holy Grail, of course. But you won’t have to go on an endless search to find it.
The Internet of Everything in Action
Take the city of San Mateo, Calif. It’s a relatively small city of about 100,000 people, but has a busy downtown with a serious parking problem. Public parking, however, provides economic support for the community, so the city needed a smarter approach to parking, says assistant city manager Matt Bronson.
The city is using aggregated sensor data that allows drivers, through an app, to find open parking spaces in real time using hands-free navigation. But the city is also using analytics on this data to shift policy.
By looking at the hours of highest demand, the city can change rates to influence citizen behaviour and increase availability of open parking spots.
Its current enforcement hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. — and it’s been that way for 50 years. But the city discovered that parking spaces are only 40 per cent occupied at 8 a.m., while they’re fully occupied at 6 p.m. Since there’s no enforcement after that time, people don’t have any incentive to move their car.
“That doesn’t help us as operators,” says Bronson. “Shifting enforcement hours until 8 p.m. would capture the occupancy we need to create more turnover.” And, every new parking space the city doesn’t need to build saves $50,000.
This is the kind of information that can help cities make better decisions. And it’s not exactly rocket science.
But that’s the point. A smart approach to smart cities is to pick a few specific initiatives — preferably quick and easy wins. Once you start seeing ROI on those initiatives, it’ll be easier to gain support to build out your smart city infrastructure.
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