Data joining the dots for city parking

Modern cars produce up to 1 gigabyte of data, the equivalent of sending 200,000 plain text emails each second, but up until recently most of this information vanished after basic vehicle running checks. So what’s changed?

“A car may produce an exabyte of data a year (a billion gigabytes) but most is completely meaningless,” explains Scott McCormick, president of the Connected Vehicle Trade Association. “Isolating the megabyte of data a month that’s really valuable and then figuring out what you can do with it, that’s the key challenge of Big Data.”

As the industry’s insight into the uses of Big Data has developed, so has car connectivity. Parking services have emerged as the newest adopters of Big Data streams and are taking on the challenge with new multi modal solutions that aim to match cars with parking spaces. Take one example, the app INRIX On-Street Parking, which combines analysis of internet-connected parking meters, historical data, local laws and regulations with sensor data from the recipient’s car and mobile phone to determine available parking spaces.

Whether parking services can be called the first true triumph of Big Data is debatable considering other services such as maps and real time traffic tools have been successfully using Big Data in a geographical context for several years. What is for certain is that parking services are the next logical step.

Andrea Sroczynski, head of global automotive sales at Telenor Connexion AB, said: “For me the first service which was born out of Big Data was traffic information, where different sources (both public and private) feed into bigger databases to make the data more accurate and as up-to-date as possible. But parking is, of course, the next service which benefits enormously from Big Data and analytics to provide more accurate data and a better service than the current offering.”

Roger C. Lanctot, associate director global automotive practice at Strategy Analytics, adds: “Big Data analytics may be applied to parking since it is impossible to know every available space at any given time in any given place. So it is a game of probabilities. The tools being used to tackle this proposition are not unlike the tools being used for traffic, weather and road conditions.”

The evolution of parking

If parking services today rely on an amalgamation of fragmented systems and data then surely the future of their success lies in a more integrated approach? One element of this will be the evolution of the connected car, as Massimo Cavazzini, head of connected services EMEA with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, explains: “The keyword is integration – the connected car and all its sensors will allow an unprecedented quality of parking services. Existing mobile apps are able to connect smartphone to infrastructure and sometimes even provide payment capabilities but the next level of parking will be reached thanks to a deeper integration with vehicles. The perfect customer journey cannot stop when the parking slot is found and paid for. Customers will be able to leave the car and walk away and the vehicle will reach the right parking slot autonomously. To do that, integration is key.”

Martin Rossell, managing director at Wireless Car, says the key is providing a service that is seamless: “Parking or rather parking payment services can of course be applied to both handset and embedded technologies, however having it embedded would make the services easier for the user and we all know the biggest hurdle for services are the ease of use. The most important thing is to get away from app’s and provide smart services.”

Most experts agree that the jump from smartphone apps to embedded systems is needed to allow for parking finders to mesh with more automated parking systems. Some go as far as to predict that the standalone model is going to be short lived when faced with the connectivity in newer cars, as Lanctot explains: “No one will want to access parking information as a separate function. Parking should become part of the contextually aware vehicle system that turns on automatically as you approach your destination to find the nearest available parking space.”

Driving innovation

For parking services to truly be innovative, new services and technology will have to be developed on a rapid scale. Whether this innovation will stem from carmakers or third parties remains to be seen but refining parking data on a localised and international level will be the key to using Big Data effectively. Many predict that OEMs will be partners to that eco-system, buying or building up third parties to drive development. They may also find that, as in the case of traffic information, it’s in their interest to share data but Lanctot points out it remains to be seen whether this approach will be adopted.

“Start-ups are bringing digital innovation into automotive market at a really fast rate,” says Cavazzini. “Working with leading technology partners provides an opportunity for the FCA to accelerate the pace of innovation in the industry. By partnering with the right players we will deliver automotive technology solutions that ultimately have far-reaching consumer benefits.”

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