Parking can be one of life’s frustrating experiences- trying to find a spot, hunting for change or an attendant to pay, or the ever infuriating experience of receiving a ticket. The “internet of things” (IoT), a combination of sensors, analytics, and communications infrastructure is transforming parking and many other everyday tasks.

What’s Changing

At present it is estimated there are 10-15 billion device connected to the internet.  This is less than 1% of all devices.  Cisco estimates that by 2015 there will be 25 billion machines connected to the internet, and by 2020 closer to 50 billion devices.  This level of connection between machines will change many everyday experiences.

Parking is an area with a lot of current innovation.  The technology already exists, many cities are trying to increase their revenues and lower their costs so there is a combination of both financial incentives and control over the infrastructure.  Adjacent industries, including car manufacturers and insurance companies, support the efforts with their own innovations that assist and enable municipal solutions.  Innovations include:

  • Directing motorists to open parking places. Sensors in both vehicles and parking infrastructure can easily alert the driver (or car) to the nearest available space.  Roadify and Parker are examples which use smart phones to direct drivers to spaces eliminating driving around to find an available space.
  • Payment for parking can be automated through mobile phones, electronic vehicle passes, or email accounts tied to vehicle registration, eliminating the need to have correct change or a credit card to pay.
  • Parking spaces with sensors monitor the time a vehicle is parked eliminating the need for meters and parking attendants.  When the time limit is reached a violation can be automatically generated and sent to the vehicle’s owner.
  • Driverless cars can drop you at your destination and proceed to the nearest available parking space.  See previous trend alert Reducing Congestion.
  • For those tight spots, the vehicle can park itself. Toyota, Audi, BMW and other car manufacturers are already commercialising this technology.
  • Based on demand, parking rates can be changed throughout the day.

In this example of parking, huge amounts of data are generated and transmitted as:

  • The car is sending and receiving signals.
  • The parking space is sending signals regarding availability.
  • The local council is receiving data about violations and vehicles.

Why is it important?

The implications how this simple everyday experience, and lots of others, might change in the future are far wider than just the technology:

  • Many low skilled jobs, like parking attendants or violations officers will be eliminated through technology and the use of low cost sensors.
  • The ability to fine tune pricing and maximise revenues for a variety of goods and services based on usage and demand is created through the availability of real-time data.  In the parking example, rates can be changed throughout the day to maximise revenue at peak times.
  • The ability to insure near perfect compliance. Violations can be issued automatically virtually insuring if you overstay in the space you will receive a ticket.
  • Privacy will disappear:  your movements, usage of goods and services, and whereabouts can be tracked.  See previous trend alert Big Data about You.
  • Security of data:  large volume of transactions need to be both uploaded and downloaded to the internet for this to work seamlessly.  Parking data may not be overly sensitive but in other industries, such as healthcare or energy, the data may be.
  • Better more efficient use of resources and cost savings.  A 2006, IBM study, estimates in some congested areas as high as 30% of traffic is motorists searching for parking.  Quickly directing motorists to available places reduces congestion and lowers emissions.

This is a simple example, applying this technology to more aspects of your daily life: health, transport, energy, shopping, etc. and the implications are far reaching.  The data volumes are tremendous; the infrastructure requirements, data security concerns, and individual privacy are all aspects which will need to be addressed.   For the moment large cities are using parking as an area to test many of these issues.

By Elizabeth Rudd

About the author

Elizabeth has a strong background assisting clients to navigate the often conflicting signals in their external environments and find innovative opportunities . As a strategic foresight consultant at FutureNous she has assisted organisation to explore the future to find new products, alter their business model, find expansion opportunities and build their resilience. Her experience spans many industries including technology, mining, utilities, healthcare, non-profits, government, media and telecommunications, and many others. Elizabeth also works with Shaping Tomorrow writing Trend Alerts and more in-depth reports exploring the impact of long term (macro) trends.

Photo: Parking Garage from