What are on-street parking sensors, and how can they help reduce traffic problems?
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Urban mobility and traffic have been hot issues in contemporary urban areas for a few years now. Today, approximately 55% of the world's population lives in urban areas. That proportion should increase to 68% by the year 2050. So if you think parking space occupancy is a problem right now, imagine how it will be by then.
Thankfully it is not all bad news. Over the years, the parking industry has welcomed tremendous technological advancements. One of the most important has been the advancement of on-street parking sensors. Implementing smart technology facilitates a more efficient parking system, enhances operational efficiency and offers drivers a more enjoyable and time-saving experience. It also reduces the harmful effects of congestion since fewer cars cruising around for street parking equates to fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
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Smart parking in smart cities.
The goal of many city planners around the world is to use innovative technologies to turn our urban areas into Smart Cities, using resources as efficiently as possible. City councils are increasingly looking at smart parking solutions to improve drivers' experience by reducing idle itineraries, fuel consumption, air pollution, time waste, and stress.
The Internet of Things is crucial for the capabilities of every smart city. Every day smart devices, internet-connected buildings, smart parking systems with detection sensors, and IoT fleet management are all technologies that give city officials a comprehensive view of the overall state of the city. Most importantly, systems such as on-street parking sensors allow them to manage their operations and make changes as necessary remotely.
On-street parking sensors are one way of optimizing parking problems. They allow establishments, or cities in general, to effectively manage what is often a limited amount of parking spaces. As we will see in this article, this can bring increased revenue and help drivers find that much-needed free parking bay faster.
What are street parking sensors?
The basic purpose of on-street parking sensors is relatively simple - to quickly notify us when parking spaces are available. Cities can use smart parking sensors to track which parking spots throughout the city are unoccupied and provide parking guidance to drivers. On-street parking sensors do not only help drivers find spaces more quickly, but entities can then use the data collected from these sensors to track congested and empty areas and ultimately optimize parking for excellent efficiency.
On-Street parking sensors are not something that started recently or with the advent of IoT. On-Street parking sensors have been with us for some time. In the past, there were parking sensors that could still be installed on the ground but used technology that was not standardized, it was instead based on customized protocols and radio protocols. Each company offered its gateway with its product.
These were good technologies, and you can still find some examples installed. Still, these type of on-street parking sensors did not have today's advantages, such as optimized battery life or the option of having multiple vendors offering different gateways of the same technology. If a company went bust, you were left stuck not being able to buy a separate gateway. Today you can buy a sensor Sigfox or LoRa or use a gateway from a different company. Today's on-street parking sensors are also cheaper since they are standardized and produced in large quantities.
The rise of smart cities has inevitably increased the interest in smart parking solutions and increased the number of municipalities that have opted for this feature for their cities. For example, in Malta, this increased interest, coupled with lower prices, has resulted in instances of smart parking deployed in localities such as Qormi, Valletta, and Victoria, Gozo.
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How do on-street parking sensors work?
A theory of transportation economics holds that the optimal occupancy rate of publicly provided parking is 85 per cent — with little or no circling necessary to find a spot. Unfortunately, that is just theory, and we often find ourselves on the other end of the spectrum, endlessly circling to find one elusive parking spot. The result is usually to turn around and return to the original location or opt for somewhere else. It is a frustrating and time-consuming process that drivers could avoid using the recently installed on-street parking sensors.
Knowing exactly how many vehicles are in a parking lot at any given time is the basis of smart parking systems. On-street parking sensors form part of a cloud-based system that continuously receives data. Such data comes from the sensors or cameras or google live traffic data, for example. They detect whether the parking space is free/occupied, identify if a parking area or street is full, and provide an accurate location of vehicles.
On-street parking sensors help cities and specific parts not to lose business. The information from parking sensors is relatively simple – it tells you whether there is a car in the parking space or not. In addition, sensors do not require wires, making them more practical and cheaper. However, their battery life is shorter.
On-street parking sensors are only part of a bigger system, though. A Smart Parking system consists of an integrated network of devices and technology. Alone, parking spot sensors are not enough. A complete system needs signage, mobile apps, and even a payment system such as pay-as-you-park systems which are popular abroad.
As a citizen, on-street signage informs you about parking availability, while mobile applications work like google maps that navigate you towards the nearest parking space, depending on which area you want to go. Councils, or establishments that have this system installed, can see this info and draw their conclusions about necessary improvements, which areas need upgrading, for example, or which places are having traffic difficulties.
The comprehensive data taken from that system is very useful. A local council may use the data to bring order, reduce traffic, and enforce more. Areas with high parking density need more on-street management. It also means increased enforcement is necessary to minimize breaking of the law, resulting in more order.
Such order is especially true in areas where parking comes against a payment, such as with parking meters. These are normally areas monitored with sensors, where a council will know which cars are parking but not necessarily paying the full fee, or exceeding time parking limits. With proper enforcement, this can be reduced to a minimum. Smart parking systems are therefore very worth the investment, particularly in capital cities or areas with high traffic density.
Do parking sensors help with infringements and efficiency?
Smart parking management systems allow officers to follow real-time and accurate data updates. Once a car enters a sensor-fitted parking space, occupancy data is transmitted and made accessible to concerned parties.
With a smart parking system in place, better management of existing facilities is possible. Clients can remotely monitor and control parking facilities while taking advantage of a full range of parking-related data. Such parking data includes the number of available slots, the duration of each parking taken, and potential abuses, such as exceeded time limits, unauthorized parking in disabled spots, or electric vehicle charging stations.
Parking enforcement hence becomes easier with on-street parking sensors. This direct enforcement methodology significantly improves officers' efficiency by eliminating unproductive patrolling and deployment of officers as necessary. This way, officers can capture approximately 20-30 per cent more offences than in standard old deployment.
With paid on-street parking, this solution is very viable because the moment you install the system, you start getting back revenue, which means you get your money back within a few years and probably will make a profit in the long term.
In addition, people inherently take a step back from breaking the law when they see sensors installed. Significant improvement in traffic congestion, especially in busier urban areas, means less circling looking for free parking spots. Streets are safer for pedestrians. Motorists can then spend more time visiting local businesses, which increases turnover and contributes to the overall infrastructure of the area.
On-street parking sensors are capable of vehicle detection and which kind of car if a tag is installed. If you have a parking area and sections, you can identify which cars are parking in which areas. Think of employee cards, locality residents parking, loyalty cards for customers, or parking spaces for people with special needs.
There is huge competition from cameras to on-street parking sensors. Cameras are cheaper, but they come with their problems. Cameras installed in the streets raise privacy concerns, whereas paring spot sensors are bling to individuals and deal only with vehicles. Cameras may be a good solution for small secluded areas. However, smart city-wide monitoring is another matter with significant ethical issues.
Parking sensors are made to fit.
Smart parking systems are starting to offer solutions for urban mobility. Thanks to the Internet of Things and sensor technology, this system allows real-time data about parking availability, both outside and inside, and regarding traffic and road conditions.
Control of roads means more order, more structure, less abuse, less traffic, fewer accidents, and a better environment. Cities like Dubai, for example, have this kind of infrastructure running, meaning that things go as smoothly as possible. Such smoothness ensures a high standard of living and the advancement of a country.
Our devices fit the needs of off-street and on-street car parking and indoor and outdoor facilities. Our parking sensors are the result of years of experience and testing. Experience has allowed us to work relentlessly on an optimum design and allowed us to optimize our product for large-scale purchasing and installations. We have one of the largest deployments in the world, around 40,000 sensors shipped worldwide. We provide both surface mount and flush mount, depending on what the client necessitates. We also offer excellent post-purchase support service on hardware. Our sensors aim to:
Reduce Traffic Congestion: Visiting traffic to available parking spaces is easier for visitors. Apps and signs direct drivers in the street and parking lots to the nearest available parking spaces.
Improve User Experience: Visitors spend less time in lines of traffic looking for parking spaces, allowing longer visits and reducing customer agitation.
We believe that smart parking is a way to improve one's life by making parking less of a hassle. It often takes a substantial investment by local governments to make lives better.