How Connectivity Can Ease Parking Pain

Co-authored by Barbara Flügge and Ilaria Riva

As the world’s urban population grows, innovative cities are taking steps to ensure they can deploy ecologically and economically healthy, citizen-centric services and attract new investment, businesses, and talent. By harnessing the power of innovative digital technologies, these cities are transforming into more sustainable, livable communities.

Digital transformation is a joint effort, and governments need the support, expertise, and services of leading organizations to become smart cities.

Taking a closer look into the physical and digital assets of cities, urban space is a critical high-value asset.  In the following interview, Ilaria Riva, global digital and marketing manager with Hub Parking Technology, elaborates on the distinct viewpoints on space management—specifically, parking spaces.

Ilaria, let’s start on what I call the essentials of smart mobility offerings. When I look into the definition of smart mobility, it is defined as an offering that gives everyone the right to mobility – regardless of age, budget, handicap, local familiarity or not. Which three elements are essential from your point of view?

The three most important elements are:

  1. Technology and mobile infrastructure
  2. Policies and strategic decision making upon partnerships and cooperation
  3. Investment capability

Easy access to connectivity for all citizens is key. The same accounts for smart mobile solutions and sensors that offer real-time data and alerts.

So the accessibility gained through connectivity and openness then also helps create an ecosystem that allows cities to connect with their citizens?

Yes, it offers even better, more efficient and sustainable services. Mobile applications allow cities to know better their citizens, their needs and sentiments, and improve their quality of life. Adoption of these solutions asks for a holistic view, meaning the presence of policies and an integrated vision across different dimensions of urban living. A series of integrated policies implemented by the public sector will help – such as pushing for shared services, redesigning the city, expanding pedestrian zones, amongst others. [Others] are strategic partnerships and integrated initiatives between private and public sector in order to build one ecosystem where there is no fragmentation and no friction.

You talk about offering what I call a “frictionless city” that allows a smooth mobility experience to everyone throughout the city. Cool!

Yes, and with respect to investment capability. It translates into the ability of the city to invest wisely into infrastructure from an operational and constructional point of view where and when it is needed.

Which of the essential elements are a key focus from your point of view?

Parking congestion in cities accounts for 10% of a car’s greenhouse gas emission and 30% of urban traffic. Most of the current parking infrastructure does not cover the ever-growing demand for efficient parking in a city. Our aim is to constantly focus on developing technologies that can help municipalities and parking operators threefold:

  • Offering new and more efficient services for their citizens.
  • Helping reduce congestion and improve transient time
  • Improving the community’s quality of life

We are able to achieve this, both through technology and bringing together private and public sectors, to create an effective, consistent, and frictionless parking experience for the end user and citizen. Finally, we contribute to improve dramatically urban mobility.

How are cities then able to collect and analyze data?

The gathered information and knowledge is helping them plan, implement, and evaluate integrated initiatives of smart mobility. Think about the following applications as an example:

  • GPS-based mobile solutions leveraging real-time occupancy information and variable message signs (VMS) to drive traffic and direct drivers to the closest parking location with parking availability
  • Integrated parking guidance systems to further relieve congestion and guide the customer to a specific parking spot
  • Multiple smart ways to access and pay automatically and seamlessly for parking through a mobile phone (both for transients and monthly subscribers), license plate recognition, RFID, and AVI to speed up the throughput and make the experience seamless for the citizen.

Do you have an example?

An integration with toll systems, for example, allows citizens to access parking by using the same credentials they use for accessing toll roads. Moreover:

  • Integrations with public transportation fare collection systems stimulate intermodality
  • Integrated video surveillance systems for area and environment security foster safety in a gated area
  • Predictive business intelligence solutions predict more accurately the throughput and plan
  • Powerful back-end platforms for our mobile solutions offer the ability to gain valuable insights about citizens’ parking behaviors, [and to] connect with citizens and derive further parking strategies from that.

With respect to strategic, functional, and business aspects, I see that an open dialogue is needed with municipalities, the local economy, and constituents to frame a holistic and integrated vision and determine the digital agenda for the city.

Exactly! This is where technology turns into a key enabler for the creation of an open and integrated ecosystem and mobility plan, which ultimately translates into a better quality of life for the citizens. Open platforms are essential, as well as modular and extensible architectures, in order to allow cities to integrate multiple technologies and providers and easily scale with time.

Open meaning open to third-party offerings – being a platform itself, or apps and services?

Well, both.

Coming back to smart mobility in a wider context of smart cities and regions, where do you see collaboration opportunities with other mobility and non-mobility solution providers?

Collaboration opportunities are manifold: local retailers, the trade fair and event operators, the tourism office, and the city-wide marketing strategists. I recommend dedicating time and energy into a mobility-led strategy exchange together with these and other stakeholders. That is only way to identify business and functional requirements and distill technical and functional integration needs. The ultimate goal is to build an open and common ecosystem locally.

When we look at the global map, the regions and countries that will benefit most from intelligent space management are facing geographical constraints. Many to date face maintenance and investment burdens from existing infrastructures. Cities that are growing fast in e-commerce expect on-demand space requests and fulfillment for loading and unloading zones, for drone landing spots, and physical switchboards for cargo shipments. Which ones would you add?

According to the growth forecasts, urban developments will be massively happening in developing and emerging countries. Greenfield cities and urban settlements then look into space management holistically. So taking into account space, adjacent services; for example, hospitality services, mobility encompassing services in residential and commercial districts, amongst others.

When I look through my ecosystems lens, do you feel that these insights work for any stakeholder in any area with a geographical boundary, an ad-hoc need for loading and unloading zones, or anything else?

Correct, Barbara! One key element on addressing digital transformation potential is the capability to adjust and adapt advancements to a particular situation and need. And that is a task to be tackled in other mobility-affected areas, too.

Thank you, Ilaria, for the inspirational exchange!

Ilaria Riva is global digital and marketing manager with Hub Parking Technology. Ilaria works on a global scale to bring in-depth knowledge and expertise on parking and space operations to small, medium, large, and mega-cities. Barbara Fluegge advises executives, forward thinkers, and innovation leaders in ecosystems thinking and is driving Smart City and Smart Mobility initiatives. Both Ilaria and Barbara share the efforts of mobility-as-a-service to diminish infrastructure burdens and execute digitization efforts successfully to help citizens, governments, and businesses.



This article originally appeared in D!gitalist Magazine, June 28 2017: