Lengthy searches for a parking spot are not only annoying for drivers, that extra time spent driving around also contributes to traffic congestion and air pollution. Silicon Valley startup Streetline has an answer: smart parking solutions for cities, garages, airports, universities and other private parking providers.
The company's Parker is a free smartphone app that leads drivers to available spaces in real time. It received the 2013 Best Mobile Innovation for Smart Cities award during the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
The company also won the IBM SmartCamp in 2010, a global entrepreneurship program that identifies early-stage startups in the smarter planet industries. That distinction gave Streetline access to a global source of experts and advisers. Since that time Streetline and IBM have kept working together.
The two companies have collaborated on a smarter parking trial in Birmingham, England, with Amey, an infrastructure company working with the city to maintain its roads.
The city has a population of more than one mission and 160,000 daily commuters, leading city officials to come up with a way to relieve traffic congestion that affects the economy, local businesses and citizens. Analytics software will help the city identify parking patterns, information that will allow it to better manage congestion, improve parking efficiency and make it easier for drivers to find precious parking spots in the city's Jewelry Quarter.
Ultra low power wireless sensors have been embedded into the road surface of parking spaces in an initial 10-block section of the city. The sensors detect the presence of a vehicle and sends the data, which is collected and analyzed in real-time. The information is then provided to the city transport authority and drivers.
In addition to finding available parking spots via drivers' computers or mobile devices, the Parker app provides pricing information and, where available, drivers can pay for parking with their mobile phone and get help finding their way back to their car. The voice guidance system and hands-free capabilities ensure the app can be used safely while driving.
Combining information management and advanced analytics from IBM with the information collected from the sensors and applications from Streetline reveal what parking is like in an area by analyzing hourly occupancy, occupancy by block, parking duration and trends in a specific neighborhood or business district.
"This smarter parking trial, which follows closely on the heels of an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant, puts Birmingham one step closer to its goal to exploit the latest advances in technology for the benefit of its citizens and to improve city services," said IBM UK Smarter Cities leader Nigel Milton, who has worked with the city on this project and others.
A successful outcome for the trial would of course mean easier parking for drivers and a way to effectively cut traffic congestion, a critical and vexing problem for many cities.
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