In the SF Bay Area, the cities of San Mateo and San Carlos have announced the deployment of their network of sensors aimed at helping drivers find parking spots with ease thanks to the Parker app (by Streetline Inc). Parker helps user find available parking spots, and the overall idea is to make parking more efficient, whether it is for users, or for the city.

In cities like the ones above (and Los Angeles), users can see parking availability in near-realtime, and drivers can head to a parking with a good level of confidence that parking spots are available. Streetline Inc executives were pointing out that car parking was one of the area that had seen very little progress when compared to other services. “It has not changed in 80 years”, they said.For cities (which own tons of parkings), it is a better way to manage a lucrative resource: public parkings do bring a lot of income, and with the help of Streetline, Cities can potentially manage this in a much more efficient way, as they can gather very accurate (and actionable) data from the sensors. Streetline can even deploy the service and equipment for free and get a revenue share from the parking locations, which makes the barrier of entry is very low.

Here is what a sensor looks like

There are an array of sensors that Streetline can work with: for indoor parking venues, it is possible to use few sensors and basically count the cars that come in and out. For street parking locations, it is best to use one sensor per parking spot, and those are often embedded in the pavement. The sensors are designed to work for years at the time, and can be replaced by newer and better performing models down the road. to communicate among them and back to the central, the sensors use a network developed by Cisco systems.

Visualizing a network of sensors

The Parker app is extremely simple to use. I found it to be better than searching for parking in Google Maps. Upon choosing a parking on the map, you can see information such as opening/closing hours and pricing, if available. For select parkings, you also get to know if/when the parking is free or not – handy! finally, it’s possible to switch to the device Mapping software if you need directions to the parking. Parker is available in the app store now.

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