Photo 4008232 © Margie Hurwich | Dreamstime.com
Marina City parking lot, Chicago

Smart parking technology benefits and considerations for commercial properties

Oct. 18, 2022
Don't sell your smart building short by overlooking the welcoming and parting experiences of visitors, tenants, and customers, writes SBT contributor Andrew Froehlich.

Even the best smart building property can fail to attract tenants and customers. Why? Poor parking facilities. While parking is technically available, the garage layout is disorganized and confusing. The drawn-out parking process not only consumes time, but it also sours the arrival and departure experience for a work, retail, or residential destination.

One solution to easing these pain points is a modern smart parking management system that can identify open spaces, streamline access in and out, and automate the payment and validation process. Better yet? New and existing parking facilities can seamlessly integrate a smart system.

Smart parking innovations and benefits

In any location where people drive to congregate—commercial buildings, airports, universities, retail, health care facilities—convenient parking is always a plus. But many lots and parking garages create bottlenecks at various points in the parking or payment process. Smart parking management systems help alleviate these access issues through technology. Common examples and benefits are listed below.

Digital signage: By displaying dynamic and real-time information, digital signage at strategic locations can provide useful data-driven insights, including space capacity and availability, directions to open spots, and detours around congested areas.

Automated open spot locator: Through a facility’s vehicle detection sensor combined with digital signage or a smartphone app, tenants and visitors can be alerted to the precise location of available parking stalls. Additionally, parking management can be notified when cars park outside of designated markers, helping to optimize the use of all available stalls.

Smart lighting: Information obtained from motion detectors and open spot locators can direct lighting to turn on or off on demand, saving on energy but also improving security at night. Additionally, spot location lighting can be configured to help drivers by, for example, highlighting a path to an open stall.

Multipoint payment and validation options: Using either an app with QR codes or automatic number plate recognition, drivers can pay or validate their tickets digitally at payment terminals or at the gate.

API integration with existing or new third-party tools: Data pulled from the various parking technologies, including available or occupied stalls, traffic flow, and time spent parked, has many useful purposes. Managers can maximize lot or garage usage by baselining congestion over time to provide historical context into peak usage. This information can then help formulate plans for remediating bottleneck locations.

Security assistance: A combination of surveillance cameras, door controllers, and motion sensors can help pinpoint locations where physical security services are required and assist in enforcing parking rules.

Smart parking system challenges

Though an integrated smart parking management system offers several advantages and efficiencies, owners have several considerations before selecting a specific platform.

Integration costs: When looking at retrofitting existing parking lots and garages, the facility’s IT staff should research cabling costs and whether wireless sensors can operate properly at the structure, which often is concrete construction.

Disparate network protocols: Because many parking systems and sensors are operational technologies (OT), they might use non-IP network protocols. For example, some smart sensors use a closed network mesh that leverages non-IP protocols. The information they communicate must be converted into IP using special gateways so that the relevant data they collect can be extracted, centralized, and analyzed using IP-based parking management tools.

Maintenance: Electronics—especially those that operate in outdoor areas—inevitably will break or malfunction over time. These systems must be kept operationally functional; otherwise, parking management teams risk creating undue frustration for tenants and customers. When building owners and operators perform a cost calculation for ongoing support, they should account for maintenance agreements with parking management system contractors. The cost of these maintenance services can vary dramatically so the IT team should take care to ensure that the parking facilities technology will be maintained without overspending. At a minimum, they should procure three quotes by different parking management system contractors for comparison.

Rapid ROI is easier to achieve than you think

While parking is often overlooked in smart commercial building system integrations, it can become a long-standing annoyance for tenants, visitors, and customers who are looking for quick access to a business. Over time, these irks and delays can lead to a reduction in occupancy and a loss of customer traffic. Owners and operators must calculate this convenience into the overall ROI of a smart parking management system to see if an investment is worthwhile. Often, a modern parking technology will be an attractive amenity for years to come.

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About the Author

Andrew Froehlich | Contributor

As a highly regarded network architect and trusted IT consultant with worldwide contacts, Andrew Froehlich counts over two decades of experience and possesses multiple industry certifications in the field of enterprise networking. Andrew is the founder and president of Colorado-based West Gate Networks, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and data center build-outs. He’s also the founder of an enterprise IT research and analysis firm, InfraMomentum. As the author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex, he is a regular contributor to multiple enterprise IT-related websites and trade journals with insights into rapidly changing developments in the IT industry.

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