Sensor checks parking spaces to make life easier for motorists

Wireless sensor network company Libelium has launched its Waspmote-based Smart Parking platform. The sensor – part of its Smart Cities range – is designed to be buried in parking spaces and detect the arrival and departure of vehicles.

The platform will let system integrators offer parking management to city councils. By providing accurate information on available parking spaces, motorists should save time and fuel and cities reduce atmospheric pollution and congestion.

This is because a significant contribution to congestion arises from motorists searching for available parking spaces, and it is also a major cause of driver frustration. Providing accurate information to drivers on where to find available parking spaces helps traffic flow better and allows the deployment of applications to book parking spaces directly from the car.

“Systems based on Libelium’s new Smart Parking sensor platform enable drivers to find free parking spaces quickly and efficiently,” said Alicia Asín, Libelium’s CEO.

“Efficient parking not only means happier motorists, but also reduces CO2 emissions, saves fuel and helps minimise traffic jams.”

The sensors can be buried in parking spaces and communicate with the rest of the sensor network using Waspmote’s Zigbee radio.

“The first deployment of the platform will be with Smart Santander – a unique city-scale experiment in applications of smart city technology which is already considered as a reference in the Smart Cities field,” said Asín.

The network planning and mobile communications group from the University of Cantabria contributed to the testing and performance improvement of the sensor.

Waspmote’s power management and over the air programming (OTA) mean that, once installed, parking sensors do not need to be accessed for years. Motes only need to transmit when a parking event – a vehicle arriving or leaving a space – takes place. With suitable batteries a sensor can operate for five years before it needs to be physically accessed for battery replacement.

OTA programming enables the software for entire networks to be upgraded over the radio network without digging up the parking spaces. The low maintenance involved in smart parking sensor networks means networks with hundreds of nodes can readily be deployed.

Smart parking sensors communicate with their gateway via radios at either 2.4GHz or 868/900MHz. For 2.4GHz Zigbee connections, mesh networks are implemented with routing motes in street lights. For the lower frequency radios, it is possible for parking sensors to communicate directly with the gateway as the propagation distance is longer.

Parking sensors must be robust enough to be buried under parking spaces. The sensor nodes are supplied in a PVC casing rated at IK10 for mechanical impact protection and at IP67 for ingress protection. The use of PVC ensures that radio communications are not hindered.

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