Parking Tech: An Accelerator to the Connected City

By Zia Yusuf

Zia is currently the CEO of Streetline, the leading global provider of sensor-enabled smart city solutions. Prior to Streetline, Zia was Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Sutter Hill Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners; spent ten years at SAP AG where he was executive vice president and a member of SAP’s Executive Leadership Team; was a part of the Investment Banking Division at Goldman, Sachs & Co.; and worked on health sector issues in Southern Africa, as well as project and structured finance in South Asia and Indochina at the World Bank Group. Zia holds a MS in International Affairs from Georgetown University, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a BA from Macalester College, and is also an associate consulting professor at Stanford University.

After years of imagining, the Internet of Things (IoT) is finally here.

The Internet is no longer limited to your laptop or smartphone. It’s connected to your body, regular household items, car, and so forth. Wish you could turn on your lights remotely? Done. Wouldn’t it be great to warm up your house on your way home? Got it. And devices like FitBit that are aimed at improving health by monitoring key activities are on the rise, as well.

But consumers and B2C companies aren’t the only ones to reap the benefits. Many successful large B2B corporations are banking on the IoT. Take GE, which put a $15 trillion price tag on what it calls the Industrial Internet.

The Next Revolution: The Internet of Things for Cities

The biggest impact that the Internet of Things will have on our lives and businesses seems to be remaining quietly in the background, waiting for us to realize it’s significance until it begins to crawl up on us and become seamless in our daily lives: our cities.

I’d like to refer to the Internet of Things for cities as “the connected city.” What exactly is the connected city? It’s where sensors detect critical information about our environment and pass it on via advanced networks so that cities will automatically know what’s happening as well as be able to take action. They will see when a streetlight goes out; air pollution levels are high; trash capacity so garbage trucks only go to optimally filled cans; real-time parking availability and trends; and more.
Cities are where the true impact of the Internet of Things is witnessed and benefits can be realized. That’s because a city places a direct impact on consumers and businesses – they set the standards, technology, policies, and so forth to be in place to obtain these goals. But even more so, the way cities are organized and share information plays a critical role in our day-to-day lives.

Smart Parking: The Foundation to the Connected City

Companies like Streetline have a vision to make cities connected so that city leaders make better, informed decisions that minimize economic and societal impacts. We’re starting with parking.

Parking Sensor

A parking sensor

Smart parking tackles some of the largest challenges our society faces: traffic and emissions. Drivers searching for parking cause thirty percent of urban traffic, so you can only begin to think about what the reduction in people circling for parking can do from both a pollution and quality of life standpoint.

If you haven’t heard of it, you’re probably wondering what makes parking smart. Smart parking is about connectivity, real-time data, and analytics. It’s about using technology to take a mundane daily task – parking – that has several ripple effects and must be managed with data behind decisions – for both cities and drivers.

I’m proposing a strong statement: smart parking is both the accelerator – and foundation – to the connected city. I say this for a few reasons:

  • Smart parking is one of the only intelligent initiatives that actually result in increased revenue after it’s been implemented. So it’s not just reducing costs; it’s actually generating additional funds for the city. As parking is typically the second highest source of city revenue, these additional funds can be helpful to prevent budget cuts.
  • Once the network is in place, other additional sensing pieces can easily be added on to various elements throughout the city to measure critical elements and make the connected city a reality.
  • The benefits meet many public transit goals: reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and improve the local economy, foot traffic to merchants, and quality of life for citizens and visitors.

Cisco, the Internet of Everything, and Parking

Among Streetline, Cisco seems to agree that the connected city begins with parking. We’ve collaborated with the networking giant to bring smart parking to San Mateo and San Carlos, both located in the heart of the Bay Area.

Cisco is taking the Internet of Things a step further: the Internet of Everything (IoE). The IoE connects people, process, data, and things, and like GE’s $15 trillion estimation, Cisco estimates a number in the same ballpark: $14.4 trillion. The company assigns IoE asset utilization as $2.5 trillion of this pie, which is the place where managing parking via analytics and real-time data falls into.

I was honored to kick off Cisco’s Internet of Things World Forum Steering Committee last month, and showcase what we’re doing together to lay the IoE foundation in these two cities. Our parking sensors, gateways, and repeaters use Cisco’s advanced network to connect and deliver the information to a suite if applications for cities in real-time, as well as the information directly to drivers on the web and smartphones. We’re also in conversations with several car manufacturers to get this real-time parking data into in-car navigation systems.

The connected city may be the next revolution for our world today. And, it may just start with parking.

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