RFID’s Answer for City Congestion

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Sep 07, 2012 @ 08:26 AM

Tags: RFID, Traffic Management, Parking & Tolling, Energy Conservation

Parker RFID Parking AppIf you’ve ever circled city blocks over and over looking for a parking spot (which should be just about anybody who’s ever tried to find parking in a city), you’ve probably wished a voice would just tell you exactly where to go. And if navigating congested city streets has ever frustrated you, it won’t be surprising to hear that more than 30 percent of traffic congestion in cities is caused by drivers looking for parking.

According to a study performed by UCLA Professor Donald Shoup, who surveyed 15 city blocks for one year in downtown Los Angeles, the search for a parking spot created about 950,000 extra miles of travel – equivalent to about 38 trips around Earth! Not only is this excess travel clogging city streets, it is wasting gasoline - 47,000 gallons in those same 15 blocks, or about two and a half swimming pools. This is money, time, and resources that drivers and city officials have been letting go to waste for years.

People take crowded city streets as a given, but in reality there are massive inefficiencies that are entirely surmountable, particularly with RFID technology in place. In cities ranging from Stockholm to San Francisco, the parking technology firm Streetline is partnering with IBM to install RFID-based parking-management systems as part of IBM’s Smarter Cities initiative (a subset of Smarter Planet, focused on congestion solutions, greener buildings, water management systems, and the like). 

Logistically, this involves embedding transponders in the pavement of a city’s parking spots, attaching readers to permanent structures like lamp posts, and setting this system up to transmit information to a software platform from IBM that can manage the data that comes from Streetline’s readers. Magnetic sensors installed in the pavement can detect whether or not a vehicle is in a given parking space, meaning cities can now view the flow of parking availability in real time. Doing so has allowed city officials and drivers alike to realize that at any given time there can be as many as 2,000 parking spots available, when many had believed there were none. Amazing.

For drivers, finding a parking spot no longer has to involve circling and clogging the already-congested city streets, a process that on average will take 20 minutes in a business district, according to IBM’s Global Parking Survey. That could be the difference between being late for a business meeting or making it on time. Instead, it can be as simple as loading the free “Parker” app, looking at open spots nearby on the map, and navigating to the most convenient one.

City management stands to gain the most from the technology, as they have access to Streetline data, trends, and reports, enabling their parking managers and enforcement officers to work more efficiently. Managers of parking garages can locate spots that have been occupied for too long or are vacant, and can use that information to better serve their customers. And a better understanding of the flow of traffic and parking availability also allows for more efficient planning of transit schedules and infrastructure projects around the trends city officials see.

Based on the costs of inefficient parking management revealed by the UCLA survey referenced above, Streetline can save people time, money, and gas, while simultaneously bringing in more revenue for a city from the efficiencies created, particularly from a more organized system of issuing parking tickets and better accommodations for tourism. This can make a difference for municipalities facing big budget deficits that need new and better sources of revenue.  If city governments can significantly reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, and drivers can save time and gas money simply by gaining better visibility into open parking spaces, it’s a worthwhile investment that has the potential to pay for itself in a very short period of time.

RFID Lets Cars Park Themselves

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Oct 04, 2010 @ 10:31 AM

Tags: RFID, Parking & Tolling, Transportation

The Next Generation Parking Garage

I recently went out for dinner on Hanover Street in the North End of Boston where the food is great, but parking can be a hassle.  The restaurant advertised a great parking option at a garage around the corner.  For just 3 bucks I could park a few blocks away if I got my ticket stamped at the reception desk and returned to my car within 3 hours.  Not bad.  It was a nice night and it would just be a short 5 minute walk from the garage to the restaurant. And we were eating on the early side of the evening, so we’d be sure to get a spot in the garage, right?

Wohr Parking TechnologyAs we turned the corner, there was a line of cars driving slowly past a "Garage Full" sign.  Oh well, too good to be true.  Now we had to navigate our way back toward the restaurant to dish out $20 for valet parking.  Couldn’t they have squeezed a few more cars into the garage?  Probably – if they were using a system from Wöhr.

Wöhr is a leading manufacturer of car parking systems based in Germany that has been developing innovative parking solutions for the last 50 years.  Their take is that as the world’s population and the number of cars increase, there is only one solution: compact parking spaces.  In fact their tagline is “We compact parking space”.

Through the use of RFID and lift and shuttle technologies typically used to transport large equipment within buildings, Wöhr has developed next generation parking garages that not only maximize space, but allow cars to park themselves.

Upon entering the garage, the driver scans a user specific microchip-enabled key fob (RFID), drives onto a flat pallet and exits the vehicle.  The car automatically descends into the garage where it is mechanically placed into an open space.  When the owner returns to retrieve his or her car, the reverse sequence is initiated by scanning their key fob to identify themselves and their car.  The average wait time is about 160 seconds and owners are able to monitor the movement of their car on plasma screens as they move through the parking facility.

Check out the NY Times coverage of Wöhr’s parking solutions.  And the next time you’re driving past the "Garage Full" sign ask yourself if you’d rather have the parking attendant taking your car to who knows where, changing your radio station and helping themselves to valuables left behind or would you like to keep that $20 to spend on another glass of the "Barolo" Marchesi di Barolo to wash down your dish of Anatra della Duchessa?

Traffic Management with RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Sep 28, 2010 @ 11:06 AM

Tags: RFID, Traffic Management, Parking & Tolling

You Can’t Get There From Here (or can you?)

In our post RFID for Event & Hospitality Management, we discussed how RFID is being used by ThingMagic partners in the hospitality business to automate processes and provide an interactive and personalized customer experience at events.  In RFID Predictions and Shredding It with Sensors, we detailed how resorts are exploring a variety of RFID and sensor-based solutions to deliver a unique customer experience for skiers and snowboarders.

Victoria Snow FieldsBut how what about getting to your destination first?  Even before you can have fun on the golf course, at the spa or on the slopes, you often have to deal with long drives, traffic congestion and the hassle of finding a parking spot.

RFID has been used in the automotive and transportation markets for many years for vehicle immobilization, automatic vehicle identification (AVI) and in tolling systems.  But could RFID also be used to manage traffic in real-time to reduce congestion or increase parking area efficiency?

Victoria, Australia-based FE Technologies thinks so.  In an announcement detailed in a ZDNet article earlier this month, FE Technologies stated that they will be working with the Victorian Alpine Resort Management Board (ARMB) to evaluate the use of RFID for traffic flow management in the alpine region.  According to Victorian Innovation Minister, Gavin Jennings, the Mt. Buller region attracts around 275,000 visitors traveling in 60,000 cars and 2,000 buses during the ski season and he anticipates that using RFID will allow them to increase efficiencies related to parking and traffic management for both visitors and locals. 

What are your thoughts on using RFID for traffic management?  Would you be OK with having an RFID tag in your car and readers placed at key points along roadways and parking areas if it meant that traffic congestion, dangerous road conditions and full parking lots could be detected and you could receive information about alternatives sooner?   

[Image by Todd Anderson, CC BY-SA 2.0]

Subscribe by Email

Most Popular Posts

Browse by Tag

Ask the Experts 

Do you have a question about one of our products that you'd like us to answer on our Forum?

Post Your Question