Meeting of the Minds: The Value of Analytics in Smart Parking

The concept of sophisticated, real time analytics may have been confusing people in years past, but it’s no secret that they have proliferated today’s society in a variety of industries — improving processes and systems around the world. In applications such as marketing, security, education and more, data analysis allows us to obtain valuable information and patterns that contribute to enhanced decision-making and response.

With the global big data analytics market projected to reach $275 billion by 2023, the possibilities will only increase, and more and more enterprise organizations will turn to the power of data analysis to augment everyday tasks. The elevated level of intelligence gleaned can positively impact a number of markets, and one that stands to see the most benefit is parking management.

There are likely very few people in the world that aren’t familiar with the nightmare that can often be parking. Whether at the airport, a busy shopping mall or sports stadium, almost all large facilities can create a headache when it comes to finding an open parking spot in an efficient and timely manner. And this feeling is justified: U.S. drivers spend an average of 17 hours per year searching for spots on streets, in lots, or in garages.

One of the primary problems with parking environments is a lack of communication; extending far away from the facility itself, it can be difficult to ensure all drivers are on the same page and constantly aware of necessary updates. Property owners and city officials must be able to provide real-time notifications and alerts to achieve this goal.

Generating Live Parking Data

This is exactly where analytics come into play: highly efficient parking sensors that are affixed to light poles can reliably and systematically gather information about available and occupied parking spaces in real time and transmit the data to both drivers and the appropriate managerial personnel. These sensors can measure the size of available spaces and update their status frequently, communicating their exact GPS positions via WiFi.

While it may sound like a simple process, there are challenges to consider when it comes to the effectiveness of parking sensors, such as their location. For example, in-ground sensors, a technology used by some cities in the past, presented a myriad of problems, including ineffective readings that can result in unreliable data and lost revenue.

Another issue with these sensors is the installation process, which is expensive, disturbs traffic and results in road closures. Additionally, in-ground sensors have limited battery life, along with a high risk of damage through vandalism, roadwork, snowplows, etc. Significant interference from magnetic “noise” can also diminish the performance of such sensors.

Many cities also adapt a system with non-demarcated spaces in order to not have to mark individual bays for the biggest possible car, but rather allow smaller city cars to take just the minimum needed space.

It is therefore critical that parking sensors be placed on lampposts, ensuring efficient installation. Such sensors also protect drivers’ personal information, as all data is processed directly “on the edge” (i.e. onboard the sensors), using artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning, meaning only processed GPS data is transmitted (4 GPS points per car).

This type of parking management can be considered smart or intelligent parking, but what really makes a solution of this nature clever is its ability to integrate with both a backend and frontend system, allowing cities and parking operators to properly manage their most valuable real estate asset.

Clever Parking Management Cockpit

Behind the scenes, sophisticated analytics are generated in the cloud and/or local servers that can then monitor a large variety of data inputs to achieve a long-term improvement of the parking situation, such as:

  • Live and historic occupancy data of individual parking spaces or complete parking areas, heat maps and daily/weekly/yearly analytics to better understand behavior and guide traffic in an intelligent manner
  • Average and/or exceeded length of stay
  • Occupancy data can be correlated with payment data
  • Dynamic pricing based on real demand
  • Monitoring of non-parking zones, such as loading zones, fire hydrant spaces and other restricted areas, with real-time messaging and analytics of parked cars in such areas

A parking manager can easily identify special areas and set the correct pricing for an event or block certain spaces or zones on a temporary basis for construction. This also allows an operator to constantly monitor regular and irregular occupancy of all parking or restricted areas.

Clever Parking Frontend

You’d be hard pressed to find someone today that doesn’t own a smartphone, as mobility and remote access have become top priorities for convenience. The frontend of a clever parking solution driven by analytics can satisfy this desire, delivering real-time updates to mobile devices, providing immediate parking guidance, navigation and wayfinding. For a driver, knowing ahead of time where not to go if all on-street parking spaces are occupied is critical to facilitate an intelligent decision, such as choosing to park right away in the nearest garage.

Providing drivers with local, real-time guidance without the use of a mobile phone is also paramount and a game changer for reducing parking search traffic. New 360-degree outdoor digital signage mounted on light poles can display available spaces in any direction and guide drivers at the critical point of decision-making, therefore avoiding unnecessary traffic.

Though driver satisfaction is one tremendous advantage of using innovative parking technology, a clever solution presents retailers and cities with additional benefits. From a revenue generation standpoint, not only does analytics-driven parking technology incentivize drivers to pay for the spaces, but it also creates the opportunity for organizations to boost sales efforts.

The digital signs can display paid media and marketing messages, in addition to emergency and event alerts, combining valuable service information with brand visibility. Easily mounted on existing infrastructure, digital signage generates immediate ROI for the parking operator, in addition to providing the most valuable way-finding information.

The ability to simplify and truly modernize the parking experience for drivers, combined with immediate revenue opportunities for the parking operator and also local retailers, presents the true value of a clever parking solution. As AI sensors and sophisticated analytics power clever parking management, an intelligent parking solution is transformed into one that cleverly revolutionizes the way that retailers, cities, airports and more tackle parking management challenges across the globe.

Thomas Hohenacker is the CEO of Cleverciti Systems.

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