In the early days of M2M/IoT, you might be recalled that one of the earliest examples of M2M is connecting the Coke vending machine. Later, another popular example is to connect the fridge which tells you when to replenish your Milk and order automatically. Nowadays, almost in all (or nearly) IoT conversations, the “Smart Parking” application will be the main topic as an example of a smart city application. One of the main reason because traffic congestion in cities have reached a state where citizens got so frustrated and tired. Productivity can be simply dropped because of the time wasted on the road. Carbon monoxide has been the main contributor to air pollution in cities. And studies have shown that 30% of the traffic congestion is being caused by drivers trying to find parking spaces. If we are able to solve parking, we might be able to solve the traffic congestion and thus reduce the carbon in the environment.
We have some good experience in developing a smart outdoor parking trial with different kinds of sensors. Below are some of the challenges and lessons that we faced during the trial.
- Quality of Sensors – We have tested three kinds of sensors. One is made in China which is cheap but low quality and another from the Netherlands (more expensive but higher quality). The third sensor we developed in-house used an Arduino as the controller. The ones that we developed in-house are simple and easily programmable with a rechargeable battery and a small solar panel. We placed it at the back (end) of the parking bay which will detect the car’s presence. Another sensor (from China) is screwed on the tarmac. The other sensor (one from Netherland) is embedded into the parking bay by making a hole in the tarmac. It is recommended to get a high-quality sensor to get accurate reading and reliability. You might regret getting cheap sensors because you might end up with high maintenance costs in the future.
- Coverage – Depending on the location of your gateway that collects the parking data, it can be quite challenging. You have to ensure the sensor signals are not being blocked by any obstacles. Otherwise, you need more gateways to provide good car park coverage.
- Location of Sensors – As mentioned in (2), the placement of the sensors underneath the cars must not be blocked.
- Battery Life – The parking sensor’s battery normally has a life span of about 3-5 years. We are not able to test to that extent but the low-quality sensors don’t last that long. Another thing to note is the frequency of sending the data. Thus, it’s important if we are able to program the sensors easily.
- Management of Sensors – It’s easy to manage less than 10 parking sensors or one parking area. But how do you manage several parking areas in a big city? It can be a big challenge managing several thousand sensors outdoor. In our case, we developed an IOT Network Management System that is able to monitor the health of each individual sensor including its data activity and battery level.
- Application – We have developed a simple app to view the availability of the parking bays, and their battery level for both desktop and mobile versions. Depending on the objectives of the smart parking project – you can also develop a parking utilization report or analytics for the parking management of the city municipal. To make it more convenient for the public, the parking availability and its direction should be displayed on a bigger signboard.
- Culture and Attitude – It’s always a question of whether the public is able to accept this new way of parking. Can we make a parking reservation or mobile payment? Are we able to discipline ourselves not to park illegally?
However, we believed that the reliability and accuracy of the data from the sensors are of the utmost importance in smart parking applications. Once the public trust the new smart parking system, they will definitely adopt it naturally. Otherwise, whoever operates the smart parking will face many complaints every day. Do you think our country is ready to adopt this?
To analyze parking utilization, you need to collect all the sensor data for visualizations or do some form of machine learning to derive better insights. However, you need an IoT platform that can easily aggregate these data and manage the devices. This can be easily done with the FAVORIOT IoT platform. It has an open API that you (as an IoT developer) can use to send the data and create new applications.
[Source: Tale of Two Cities of Smart Parking]
About the Author
Dr. Mazlan Abbas is an IOT Evangelist, Thought Leader. You can reach him on his Mazlan Abbas Blog.