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Boosting the IQ of Smart Parking

May 20, 2019

Uzair Siddiqui, and Jason Schulz

We are on the cusp of a technological revolution that is already fundamentally changing how we live, work, and play. Everything that can be connected will be. Some call it the “Cyber Physical” era, building on such technologies as artificial intelligence, computer vision, edge processing and autonomous cars to prime a fresh wave of innovation. 


And while we can’t predict how or when all of these advances will achieve critical mass, our deployment strategy toward smart city solutions—in this case, parking—should be futureproofed as the next industrial revolution takes hold. 


Industry 4.0


The progress of a society is marked by improvements in industry and technology. In the first industrial revolution, steam power helped drive transportation and manufacturing. This led to the second industrial revolution, where improvements in and electrification of manufacturing led to mass production and the internal combustion engine. The third, often-called “digital revolution,” brought with it computers and automation, and ushered in not a singular, but multiple “internets.”


The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0 as it’s also called, has a number of facets that are unique and apply directly to those of us who both provide and consume connected services in the parking and mobility spaces.


In this Industry 4.0 era, wireless communication, such as 4G LTE and 5G becomes ubiquitous as things connect and compute—vehicles, street lights, parking spaces, traffic lights, bicycles, even scooters. Which leads to use cases such as parking availability, traffic management, public safety, smart street lights and more. The question is, how do we ensure these solutions—and others to come—are built to last as the revolution advances? How do we futureproof?


Futureproofing


One way to help futureproof a city’s infrastructure, and boost the IQ of smart parking, is through an enhanced sensor hub: a device mounted on a light pole that provides power and connectivity to multiple other sensors on the same pole, effectively acting as a Swiss Army Knife of infrastructure. 


These other sensors can provide light controls and data on spot by spot parking availability and curbside analysis through computer vision, as well as data on near-misses of pedestrian and cyclist movement in or near parking spaces. The resulting analytics could help increase intersection safety, while spot by spot parking availability improves parking operations, enhances revenue, and reduces the amount of time and frustration drivers incur while searching for parking. 


One way to help futureproof a city’s infrastructure, and boost the IQ of smart parking, is through an enhanced sensor hub.


Imagine a futureproofed parking-availability solution installed at an intersection. In the past, a non-futureproofed solution was deployed for a single set of data, as, for example, a parking solution that provides siloed metrics such as occupancy rate, dwell time, and turnover. But a futureproofed solution that uses an enhanced sensor hub can provide detailed time-based reporting and alerts about other solutions in addition to parking, such as information about movements of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists at the intersection. This version of enhanced smart parking elegantly and discreetly allows for multiple solutions and capabilities on a single pole.


Now, imagine the future of that parking solution without having planned for expansion. Would you buy a laptop with only one connector? How quickly would that one-port laptop cease to be cutting-edge and how messy would it be to install external expansion slots after the fact?


No citizen wants to stroll through their city and be blinded by the eyesore of gadget-laden light poles. Aside from the aesthetics, the lack of a plan for future emerging technologies could result in prohibitive costs down the road as that old single-port laptop inevitably becomes obsolete.


Let’s look at which attributes to consider when planning a futureproofed parking solution. 


Communications 


Cellular networks are already in place, and with their always-available data and reliable service, the universal nature of cell networks that can connect to existing infrastructure without the need for gateways makes setting up new sensors easy. 


Cellular networks are cost effective for cities in the long term since the service providers, rather than the cities, are responsible for overall maintenance of the network. 


A parking solution rooted in a cellular network allows for expanding smart city solutions in the future, especially as new 5G technology is set to usher in the rise of a smarter and more connected world due to 5G’s inherent higher speed and lower latency. 


Expansion


An enhanced sensor hub should easily scale, both in software and hardware, to allow for additional services when and where it’s needed at little to no extra cost. This means a futureproofed parking solution would not only include a solution whereby computer vision can identify parking metrics, but would also allow for additional data points, such as environmental and audio sensors that can identify such things as air quality, traffic congestion, or, in the case of public safety, gunshots. 


Processing


If data is the new oil, a data platform is the engine that enables the processing and refinement of that data into usable and actionable output. This kind of platform brings together data from disparate sources, breaking down silos and allowing stakeholders from across organizations to more quickly build a common base of knowledge and insight from which they can better serve a community’s needs. 


Not only can an intelligent data processing solution save time and money as compared to traditional manual processing, but also the practice of edge processing—where only a minimal amount of data is transmitted—can speed data analysis and result in near-imperceptible latency and increased bandwidth capability. 


It is not the content itself that is of import; it is the higher-tiered information—the metadata—that directly informs how to better serve those living in communities. 


In Conclusion


When we look at the cities of tomorrow, what should we do to plant the seeds of innovation today? If Industry 4.0 is changing the way we fundamentally approach our solutions to all things connected, we must plan these solutions in order to withstand the test of time and innovation.


As its own vertical, a smart parking solution will address the fact that 30 percent of all urban traffic is a result of drivers searching for parking. The key to giving smart parking an IQ boost is building a scaled solution that can ride the surf of this next industrial revolution wave. 


Uzair Siddiqui is Product Marketing Manager, Verizon Smart Communities. He can be reached at uzair.siddiqui@verizon.com. Jason Schulz is Product Manager, Verizon Parking Optimization Solution. He can be reached at jason.schulz@verizon.com



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