The search for a parking space can sometimes become a stress test - for people and the environment.
The search for a parking space can sometimes become a stress test - for people and the environment.
( Bild: gemeinfrei / Unsplash)

Smart City

Sensors against parking frustration: Parking space management with system

| Author/ Editor: Petra Adamik* / Jochen Schwab

The search for a parking space in urban areas is increasingly becoming a critical factor for people and the environment. The situation can be defused with a sensor-based, intelligent parking guidance system.

Individual transport is currently one of the biggest problems facing local authorities. Many cities are facing traffic collapse. The impairments for residents, but also for the infrastructure, are constantly increasing. In many areas, pollution by particulate matter or nitrogen oxides has become a serious problem. However, people and the environment do not only suffer as a result of flowing traffic.

Searching, circling and perhaps finding - car drivers looking for a parking space in cities are confronted with this situation. This applies not only to large metropolises. Even in smaller communities, the search for a parking space is increasingly becoming a problem. Traffic experts have calculated that around 30 percent of traffic in urban areas is caused by constantly driving around, always looking for the right parking space. Recent studies show that drivers in many cities spend an average of 20 minutes a day looking for a parking space.

Conventional parking guidance systems in many municipalities refer to the number of parking spaces available in multi-story car parks or in public car parks. However, these parking options are usually not available in all parts of the city. So parking remains in public spaces, i.e. on the street. However, the availability of these parking spaces is not indicated by conventional parking guidance systems. So it remains with the curve around the Carré.

Commercial and industrial areas or large shopping centers are also confronted with similar problems as the most densely built-up districts. Often the search for a parking space becomes a lottery game in this area, too, costing time, nerves and last but not least petrol. Some come so annoyed about the business appointment, others are spoiled again the anticipation of the planned shopping stroll in the shopping center. Above all, the burden on the environment is high, as tons of carbon dioxide is blown into the air unnecessarily when looking for a parking space. Initiatives for the "Green City" are thus taken ad absurdum.

Intelligent parking space management with a clever sensor

The hope of city and traffic planners as well as city politicians rests on possibilities that the Internet of Things (IoT) has at its disposal today and in the future so that smart city concepts can be implemented. A practical example of such an application could be parking sensors that can be installed without great effort and enable intelligent parking space management.

In cities, this can be used to solve the most critical tasks of parking space management, i.e. the precise and timely recognition of vehicles when parking and the localization of free parking spaces. Free parking space is then displayed on the smartphone via an app, for example, and leads the driver directly to the desired parking space. This is good for the environment.

More comfort for electric cars

In the context of smart city considerations, e-mobility plays an increasingly central role. In order to meet expectations for the cleanest possible transport, more and more municipalities are endeavoring to tighten up the network of charging stations for electric cars. This should make the switch to a more environmentally friendly vehicle more attractive. Nevertheless, the supply of electronic fuel pumps is still far from sufficient, and finding them is often a matter of luck. The intelligent sensor also opens up new options for drivers of electric cars. The solution can be installed just as easily in car parks with connected charging stations as on any other parking space. With a corresponding app, the driver can locate and reserve the available charging stations promptly. "In this way, charging stations can be specifically approached before the battery of the electric car runs out of power," says Unitronic division manager Werner Niehaus. "This is comfortable and environmentally friendly.

Different mounting options for more flexibility

A good system is available as a floor-mounted or surface-mounted sensor that can be easily installed on designated parking areas and on designated roads or street sections. For this purpose, the sensor is simply embedded in the road or permanently mounted on the respective pavement.

Large parking areas in shopping centers or industrial and commercial areas can be equipped according to the same scheme. With the help of recognition algorithms, the geomagnetic sensor determines whether a parking space is occupied by a vehicle or not. The measured values are transmitted in real-time to a cloud or server via a LoRa gateway. Each sensor has its own identification number for secure identification and easy allocation of the open space.

Low energy consumption and high accuracy

This is how a sensor-based parking system with cloud connection can work.
This is how a sensor-based parking system with cloud connection can work.
(Bild: Unitronic AG)

Solutions whose sensors and algorithms require the lowest possible power consumption are particularly recommended. A battery life of 10 years ensures that reliable and continuous vehicle detection is guaranteed for a long time. In this way, every parking event is reliably detected. It is also important that the magnetic parking sensors have special algorithms that reliably filter magnetic interference fields. This ignores interference that can be caused by subways, overhead lines or passing traffic. Incorrect measured values can thus be significantly reduced.

The parking sensor can also be used in critical or harsh environments. Thus a good system is able to withstand temperature fluctuations from -30°C up to +70°C without any problems. The results of the measurements are not influenced by these extreme characteristics of a field of application. As a true IoT tool, the parking sensor can be maintained and administered remotely using the integrated Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) module. Software upgrades can be installed at any time via a mobile app.

An extensive dashboard can also be made available via a cloud connection. Municipalities or private car park operators can use it to manage and monitor their entire available space as well as the corresponding data. Installation, verification, diagnosis, and monitoring can thus be carried out from a central location. A complete reporting system provides a transparent overview of all transactions carried out in a parking area at all times. For example, the unpopular long-term parkers on the parking lots of shopping centers can also be quickly identified.

Both local authorities and private operators can use such a system to manage free parking spaces and thus contribute to reducing parking search traffic.

* Petra Adamik works as a freelance author.