Like many of these grandiose buzzwords, a precise definition of Smart Parking is hard to pin down.
The term Smart is normally applied to describe an electronic system that grants an otherwise relatively passive device a means of sensing the world around it. The sensing mechanism may be local via sensors or remote via a connection to the Internet. The extra abilities generally provide some sort of interactivity, turning an inert single function device into a configurable, communicative device. Hence the Smart Phone added Internet access and user applications to the mobile phone and the Smart TV added the same to (hitherto, dumb) TVs.
Of course, with the boundless marketing appeal of the term Smart, it has been co-opted ad infinitum for purposes that really stretch the definition. In the domain of a Smart City, the definition is quite liberal. Fundamentally, Smart City technologies retain the tenet of enhancing the interactivity of relatively passive devices through sensing and communications. With an eye on avoiding technology for technology sake however, the banner of Smart City has come to emphasise applications that increase "liveability" metrics. A smart technology only qualifies for Smart City adoption if it contributes to the safety, prosperity, enjoyment or cohesion of the citizens. In fact, meeting this qualification is often more important than meeting the traditional sense of Smart or even being primarily concerned with technology.
This finally brings us back to Smart Parking. Smart Parking is a Smart City technology that enhances passive car parks with the ability to sense occupancy and patronage. Invariably the results of this smart new sense are communicated and collated, either over the Internet or over a private network.
A car park that knows whether it is occupied or not is next to useless, but delivering that information to a driver or a car park manager starts to unlock some value.
For example, a car park owner could be notified when a customer has arrived in a visitor car park, or a when someone has occupied their reserved spot.
Collate the occupancy data from a group of car parks and you start to unlock even more opportunities. Retail business owners could see when nearby car parks are patronised and correlate that with the traffic through their shop door to see if they're making the most of the trends. Paid parking operators could measure utilisation and make informed decisions about when to expand or what pricing schemes are most appropriate.
Once the majority of car parks in a region are Smart, the location of available car parks can be displayed on roadside signage or even on mobile devices, to direct drivers towards the free spots. The implications are profoundly self-reinforcing: available car parks effectively advertise themselves to those in need, while those in need spend more time patronising their target business and less time clogging the roads looking for a park. As the Rocky Mountain Institute puts it, Smart Parking can transform cities.
Smart Parking In Action
Many examples of Smart Parking exist around the world. Telensa have several installations in Russia running on their own proprietary wireless network. Streetline have a version in Hollywood enabled through their parking meters. In Australia the best known examples are those used in multi-storey, undercover car parks attached to large shopping centres. However their self-serving nature and lack of interoperability with other datasets means that such systems rarely rate as a Smart City technology. More collaborative, interactive systems do exist in Australia, such as VIMOC Technology's pioneering Kaooma project in Newcastle, the ACT government's pilot in Manuka with Scottish-born (and imaginatively named) Smart Parking, and APARC's trial in Tamworth.
But like many Internet of Things (IoT) style innovations, the promise of Smart Parking has far exceeded the reality. Indeed, Gartner recently plotted IoT right at the peak of their influential Hype Cycle. Smart Parking adoption is slow and projects rarely get beyond the pilot stage before bogging down with implementation and scale issues. The reason is that the existing systems either require significant single-purpose power and communication infrastructure, cumbersome installation, infeasible maintenance schemes or simply fail to scale effectively. Newie Ventures was formed after studying these issues and formulating solutions. We have developed the technology, expertise and motivation to deliver Smart Parking solutions that progress beyond pilot stage, to finally realise the value that Smart Parking promises.