Internet of Everything: Parking

Peter Welcher
Architect, Operations Technical Advisor

Cisco is talking up the Internet of Everything (IOE) lately, with today’s focus being public sector #IOE. I’m excited about the potential, and have been watching discussions eagerly. From the news, multiple vendors at the #CES (Consumer Electronics) show in Las Vegas are talking about IOE. Intel and other vendors are making embedding technology in products easier and easier: small, powerful components lead to faster innovation. So I agree with Cisco’s #CiscoCES message that #IOE is coming, and soon.

I’d like to share a concrete pre-IOE example, namely parking-related technology. (Yes, concrete in both senses!) I’ll follow with a related business opportunity. We’ll work through a use case, to see ways I can imagine this evolving.

The nearest airport, BWI, does quite high volume, mainly due to a major Southwest presence. A large BWI parking garage has what I’d call a pre-IOE parking system. It uses some sort of sensor to detect whether each space is occupied. The sensor shows a green or a red light so you can readily see open spaces. The sensors are mounted on a rail similar to track lighting (in appearance) hanging from the ceiling above. Somehow, the numbers get added up. Small overhead signs at the end of each row indicate the number of open spaces in the parking row. Signage at the entrance and on the exits from the spiral up ramp indicate how many open spaces there are on each floor. This saves a lot of time when you’re trying to catch a flight.

My guess is the cabling system sums the rows for the end of row display (based on a coded in max # open spaces?), and they roll up per-floor. With wiring to the entrance and floor signage. I suppose the rail could instead provide a bus with sensors communicating back to a server. It also may be part of the system to facilitate sensor vertical positioning, if the sensors require being a fixed height above the garage floor.

What might the IOE version look like? I imagine putting sensors up in the air greatly reduces damage. So gluing them to the floor is probably Not A Good Idea. Hanging a rail from the ceiling takes time, but gives a way to provide power. Wireless or cellular technology might reduce cabling — and in fact the system might be wireless, I have no way to tell. Gluing a wireless sensor to the ceiling with e.g. 10 year battery might be an interesting alternative — less materials to ship, faster installation? But giving up visibility and controlled height.

If I were building a wireless-based system, I imagine each sensor would report at least its position (floor 2 row 1  space 5) and state (occupied / not). A central system could then roll up the numbers and update (via wireless or cell signal) the row and floor signage with free space counts. The system might also track arrival time, departure time, length of occupancy. Maybe even alert security for cars left in one place for too long (over 2 or 3 weeks?). Combining fire and other sensors might also be useful. A further step might be to have the vendor monitor for failed sensors or other system problems (Internet to the central server).

For  that matter, maybe the central server actually is “in the cloud”. That would simplify updates and upgrades for everyone, and reduce management costs for IT and the vendor.It would also save on datacenter space, server refreshes, and some of the other costs of supporting such a system.

The business opportunity: I will talk about Annapolis, MD. I imagine other cities and towns have similar problems.

Annapolis has several parking garages, historical narrow downtown streets, and a lot of tourists. The Naval Academy draws a lot of parents and visitors, there are a number of other things to see and do, and I gather Annapolis has a pretty good bar / restaurant / music scene. (No, I don’t work for the tourist bureau!) The downtown garages get packed. It would be useful to communicate to visitors where they can park, save time, reduce congestion. The city has publicly discussed this, also discussed differential pricing, i.e. rewarding people for parking further from downtown.

In my travels in England, I’ve seen towns with signage listing parking lots, free space counts, and providing directions. They look like they are probably based on wired infrastructure. The parking lots have entry and exit gates (with or without charges). My bet is some simple electronics counts entries and exits from the lot, reports to a central computer which calculates: (spaces available – entries + exits). The system somehow gets the occupancy counts to the signage. I have no clue whether a vendor sells similar systems in the U.S.

What I’d love to see is someone combining the two systems using wireless or cell technology form, and perhaps Internet, #IOE. Maybe cloud managed reporting could tie in reporting and more flexibility, e.g. algorithms varying the pricing based on prior occupancy patterns, time of day, or other factors, including manual over-rides.

Shifting focus off just parking, what else might such a system do? Here are some ideas a bit further “outside the box”:

  • The signage might inform people when the next bus to downtown departs, and where to board it. Maryland already has web pages tracking snow plow locations on maps. Why not busses?
  • Changing advertising on the signage (pushed over the Internet) could help pay for the system.
  • The city could post messaging, say about events or how to depart or where there is congestion.
  • Gesture recognition might signal security. (“Officer, I was just stretching, thank you but I do not need help!”)
  • Online maps could display and provide directions to available parking, if there were an API to the system.

Wouldn’t such a system be useful at a city or large town near you?

Related Links on IoE in the Public Sector

Other Links

Intel Edison computer the size of an SD card:
Intel 3D technology (including gestures):

Life Log

For those looking for more in the Practical SDN: NSX, DFA, ACI series, the next blog in the series is coming soon.

Twitter: @pjwelcher

Disclosure Statement

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2 responses to “Internet of Everything: Parking

  1. I didn’t get to attend CES, but I think you have some good comments and points. I think #IoE will produce experience that we didn’t even really think about. I think the key to success for each solution is not that much different than any other. It must solve a problem, be practical, and be cost effective.

  2. Thanks, Paul.

    Parking is rather mundane, and maybe I should have thought further outside the box. The relevant point perhaps being that what we do now expands to become easier, opening the door to many new things we have not even begun to think of.

    Since writing the blog, I also thought of reported apps and auctioning of parking spaces. That’s a bit more self-service than an public sector thing, unless the public sector just empowers private enteprise and steps out of the way.

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