Smart Parking: Finding free parking spaces with sensors

03/21/2019 Know-How

A startup from Nuremberg wants to contribute to the smart city of the future by digitally transforming parking spaces. In contrast to other approaches that are either very expensive or time-consuming to install, Smart City System’s “Parking Pilot” is based on a small, yet robust, sensor that can be easily attached to parking areas.

Up to 30% of traffic in inner city areas is people driving around looking for somewhere to park. This not only costs time and frays nerves but also increases the volume of traffic and pollutes the environment. Smart parking, in other words the digital management of parking spaces, could solve this problem and is, therefore, an extremely lucrative market. According to a report from consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, this market segment earned revenues of around $7bn in Europe and North America in 2014; this figure is set to rise to $43bn by 2025.

The race has started

Consequently, a large number of companies are currently working on an intelligent parking system. Speed of development and competitiveness are therefore decisive factors when positioning yourself in the market and establishing a standard. The startup Smart City System has developed its parking sensor in just two and a half years.

The "Parking Pilot" measures 130x240x20mm and can be easily attached to parking areas. The built-in sensor uses a magnetic field to detect whether a car is parked above it or not. This information is then sent to the Smart City System servers using a self-implemented radio protocol. Using API interfaces, the parking lot-specific data is made available live to parking lot operators, enabling them to run their own apps and analysis programs.

The advantage of the Parking Pilot over other solutions is that it is much simpler, more robust, and less expensive. The sensors boast a lifetime of five to seven years and are easy to replace.

While the sensors were still handmade in the beginning, series production has already commenced.

Big advantages even with small quantities

"For our first series production run, we very quickly required a smaller quantity of microcontrollers - and Rutronik24 immediately supplied us with the desired model," explains Stefan Eckart, founder and managing director of Smart City System. The developers had chosen the STM32L0 microcontroller for the Parking Pilot because of its low power consumption and easy programming.

"For us, as a startup, Rutronik24 is a secure source and the perfect partner for our project. The direct and fast communication as well as the uncomplicated advice helped us a lot on the way to market readiness," says Stefan Eckart. Through the sales organization, companies with small and medium-sized requirements can also access the entire product portfolio of the broadliner Rutronik and make full use of numerous value-added services, such as consulting or the supply of samples. For example, Smart City System received samples of a gateway from Advantech through Rutronik24 in order to compare radio standards and further improve its own standards.

The experts at Rutronik24 advised the founding team about the market situation and possibilities for series production and supported them when selecting an EMS service provider. "We were, therefore, able to keep to our tight schedule and bring our first series to market early."

Array of application options

There is so much more potential to be realized in the Parking Pilot than just a guidance system to free parking spaces: Critical zones, such as emergency access points or charging stations for electric vehicles, can be kept clear insofar as the system immediately outputs an alarm when a vehicle attempts to park on them. This relieves not only the burden on parking enforcement officers but also reduces the time between detection and removal of an incorrectly parked vehicle. On supermarket parking lots, the system reliably identifies long-term parkers and, in addition, reservation and navigation services are possible to enhance the customer experience. Precise real-time analyses of parking utilization also make it possible to rent out excess parking areas. In general, every parking facility and parking lot is organized much more efficiently if drivers are able to navigate directly to a free space.

Cities can reduce the amount of traffic on the roads significantly if they monitor public parking spaces via sensors and guide drivers directly to them. The German city of Dresden is already using the Parking Pilot successfully, as are numerous companies, including Aldi Nord, Edeka, VW, and EnBW.

Looking to the future

After the successful start in Germany, the team is already looking to expand into other European countries. If the company remains on its growth trajectory, Rutronik will continue to support it with comprehensive technical, economic, and logistical support right through to tailor-made logistics solutions.

Moreover, Smart City System already plans to extend its offerings: "For example, at some parking lots the power is switched off at certain times of the day. We are currently considering whether solar technology or batteries would make sense for such cases. We rely on the help and support of Rutronik24 in this situation, too," says Stefan Eckart.

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