IBM launches city parking analytics system

IBM's Smarter Parking Starter Kit equips parking meters with sensors and analyzes the resulting information

By , IDG News Service |  Government

IBM has launched a system designed to help cities ease parking congestion and collect more parking fees, the company announced Wednesday. The service could also help motorists find parking spaces more easily in crowded urban areas.

"The existing parking systems are pretty inefficient [in terms] of how cities manage them," said Vinodh Swaminathan, IBM's director of intelligent transportation systems. "Think of a parking spot as a revenue-producing asset. With the ability to instrument these assets, we can manage them far more efficiently," he said.

IBM is offering this system in conjunction with San Francisco-based startup Streetline, which offers remote sensors that can determine if a parking space is taken by a car. IBM provides the analytical software, by way of a cloud service, that aggregates data from these sensors so it can be used to better understand how a city's parking spaces are used over time.

The IBM/Streetline offering is a good example of the growing market for what IT analysis firm IDC refers to asIntelligent Systems, or scores of networked embedded devices tethered to back end analysis systems. Overall, IDC expects the embedded systems market will generate over $2 trillion in revenue worldwide by 2015. This offering is part of IBM's Smarter Transportation line of integrated system offerings for cities and public transportation systems.

For this offering, called the Smarter Parking Starter Kit, Streetline will provide two sensors for each parking space. One will determine if a car is parked at the space, and the second sensor can read the parking meter, to determine if the customers had paid and how much time is left on the meter. The collected data is communicated through a wireless mesh network back to an Internet gateway, which conveys the results to the IBM service.

Motorists looking for parking can take advantage of this data through a free Streetline free mobile phone application for the iPhone and Android. Called Parker, this app can alert users of nearby parking spaces. The cities can also expose the data for other third-party applications as well.

IBM will use its Cognos business intelligence software to parse the data and generate reports and statistics for an online dashboard for government managers. The company has assembled a number of pre-built reports for the system. A top level report provides a high-level overview of how much money a city's parking spaces are generating. Another report focuses on operational efficiency, looking at the percentage of time that the meters are used. A more detailed report can be generated to identify when during the day parking spots are used, or where in the city parking spots are most widely used.

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