What is smart parking?

In the age of smart cities, people turn to technology to find solutions to all types of problems, and parking is no exception. 

Parking pains are known to everyone who has ever been behind the wheel. Time wasted driving around looking for a parking facility, not finding an empty parking spot or finding one your car doesn’t fit in, long queues, lost parking tickets are all common problems we all encounter while attempting to do the seemingly impossible action of parking our vehicles, especially in cities. 

Needless to say, parking, like any sector related to mobility, is difficult to do in big cities like Warsaw, Dubai and Amsterdam. The solution comes in the form of smart parking.

Key Highlights

  • Smart parking is a parking facility that is partly or fully automated with the use of technology.
  • The digitalisation of parking relies on IoT technology to work.
  • Tools that digitalise a parking lot include cameras, sensors, web dashboards and mobile applications. 
  • Due to the flexibility of smart parking solutions, any parking lot can be digitalised. 
  • The benefits of smart parking include increased revenue, convenience, safety and sustainability.

What is the definition of smart parking?

Smart parking, or digital parking, refers to a parking lot that is partly or fully automated with the use of technology. This digitalisation of parking can refer to anything from touchless opening of the parking barrier at entry or exit (or both), to online and in-app payments and access to parking lot availability in real time

Its goal is to make the parking process convenient and safe for parking staff and customers, and sustainable for the planet, simplifying it through innovation and touchless technologies.

How does smart parking work?

Smart parking is an integral part of smart cities as just like anything else in a smart city, it relies on IoT technology to work. 

In order to make a parking lot smart, it needs to be equipped with a few tools that enable digitalisation to take place. These tools include cameras, beacons, web dashboards for administrators and mobile applications for customers. Let’s explain each of these below. 

Cameras

When ANPR (Automatic number plate recognition) cameras are installed at parking lots, the parking barrier opens automatically upon a vehicle entering or exiting the facility without anyone needing to take any action other than the driver to drive their vehicle up to the barrier. 

That creates a seamless parking experience for the customer as well as reducing the amount of work parking staff have to do as there is no manual opening of the barrier on their part.

Beacons

Sensors in the form of small beacons are another way of digitalising a parking lot. When beacons are placed around a parking lot, they are able to sense whether a vehicle is parked in a particular parking space or not and then send this data to servers through IoT technology. That means that parking availability is shown in real time to customers and parking administrators, which saves time, money and reduces stress. 

To learn more about IoT, check out our blog article on five fun facts about IoT: https://blog.naviparking.com/2021/07/08/5-fun-facts-about-iot/ 

Web dashboards

To easily manage a parking lot, administrators at a smart parking lot gain access to a dashboard accessible through a web browser. This web dashboard enables them to oversee what’s going on at the entire parking lot, which spots are taken and which are not, how many spots are reserved for customers and what the statistics look like for the day. The data that is collected from the web dashboard allows for the quick generation of reports that give the administrators and owners insights into statistics on how their parking lot occupancy and revenue is going across a particular point in time. 

Mobile application

To easily access a smart parking lot, customers have access to a mobile application that they can download on their smartphones. Thanks to the app, they have access to features such as in-app tickets, payments and navigation to both a parking lot and a pre-booked parking space. 

This eliminates the need for paper tickets, long queues, and driving around stressed looking for an available parking space.

Who is smart parking for?

Since smart parking solutions are so flexible, any parking lot can be transformed and modernised with some form of digitalisation regardless of whether it is public or private and no matter how big or small it is. Any business and government can digitalise their parking, whether it is a shopping mall, hotel, hospital, or corporate office looking to digitalise the parking experience for their employees. 

When a parking lot is digitalised, optimisation and monetisation are both made possible. To read about how we digitalise small parking lots, check out our blog about it here: https://blog.naviparking.com/2021/07/22/upgrade-your-parking-lot-and-increase-revenue-heres-how/

Why is smart parking needed?

There are many benefits of smart parking, for everyone involved: owners, administrators, customers and even inhabitants of the city the parking is located in who don’t even use the facility. Let’s explore each benefit below. 

Increased revenue 

For owners of parking lots, digitalisation brings the direct benefit of increased revenue. One way is through the increase of new and returning customers. Thanks to a wider exposure on the web and on mobile applications, awareness of a parking lot increases and therefore, so do the number of new customers. 

These new customers then turn into regulars. Since all a customer needs to park is their smartphone, this simplifies and improves the customer experience, making them want to go back to the parking lot that made parking so easy for them

When it comes to corporate parking where the drivers who use the parking are employees, a way to increase revenue is monetisation through opening up the parking to the public in addition to employees. If a corporate parking lot has the frequent problem of having empty, unused parking spaces, they can allow inhabitants and visitors of the city to use the parking for a fee that they can pay through a mobile application. The same goes for hotels that are looking to make additional revenue for people who are not hotel guests but still would like to take advantage of the parking facility. 

To read more about how the pandemic changed corporate parking, check out this article: https://blog.naviparking.com/2021/03/25/the-new-normal-of-corporate-parking/ 

Convenience 

Stress levels are high for people who live in big cities. A lot of things contribute to this from being surrounded by crowds, waiting in long lines and spending long hours in traffic. Smart mobility, in that smart parking, aims to reduce stress levels and provide a higher quality of life for city inhabitants and visitors. 

By decreasing the time spent looking for parking and providing easy-to-follow navigation to available parking spaces, smart parking simplifies the parking experience so that individuals can focus on other activities and things that are important to them instead of worrying about parking. 

Parking shouldn’t be the cause of worries and raised stress levels, and smart parking ensures that that is the way it is.

Safety

The pandemic has changed the way we approach human interaction and accessing public facilities. The element of safety has become crucial everywhere we go: school, stores, offices, parking lots, and the anxiety that arose in people during the pandemic will not disappear soon after it is over but rather remain in bits and pieces as a reminder of the possible dangers that we can come across when in contact with publicly used surfaces. That is why people have started relying so heavily on technology as it limits this contact. 

The idea behind smart parking solutions is to make parking a touchless experience. When parking lots become digitalised, they rely on cameras, sensors and mobile applications to do everything from opening the barrier to charging for parking without the need for the individual to leave their car. That means that there would be no necessity to come in contact with the parking staff or with external surfaces such as ticket machines.

Sustainability 

At the core of smart cities, there is a dedication to have a positive impact on the environment through both, small and large scale actions and changes. Parking might seem like something that does not have a direct impact on the environment, but in fact, along with driving and with being stuck in traffic jams, inefficient parking not only means losing time and money but also contributing to traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, and noise and air pollution, all of which hurt the planet. 

When parking is digitalised, drivers spend less time driving around looking for a parking lot and an available parking spot, and they don’t have to use paper tickets that are not environmentally friendly but rather have the ticket inside a mobile application. 

Since less driving means less pollution is produced, cities run smoother, quieter and with better air quality. Additionally, eliminating the need for paper tickets is also better for the planet, as the production of paper requires high amounts of water waste. 

In this way, smart parking contributes to not only having a positive impact on the planet but on the quality of life in a particular city as well as the well-being of people who do not even use a parking lot that has been digitised.

Klaudia Żychowska

Klaudia Żychowska is a Polish native who grew up in Chicago. After completing a Bachelor’s Degree in English with a double concentration in Creative Writing and Professional Writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago, she decided to move back to Poland to reconnect with her roots. She is fascinated by smart cities and innovative technologies and is responsible for content strategy at NaviParking.

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