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IBM launches city parking analytics system

Joab Jackson | Sept. 28, 2011
The service could also help motorists find parking spaces more easily in crowded urban areas.

Cities may want to develop their own analysis as well, using this data. They could use the data to price parking spaces more effectively. They can foresee demand for parking spaces and provide nearby alternatives to ease congestion.

Such a system could also make cities more pleasant for their visitors, Swaminathan said. In the first of what it is promised to be a yearly study, IBM surveyed over 8,000 commuters in 20 cities around the world, including such cities as Chicago, Los Angeles, New Delhi, Bangalore, Nairobi and Milan.

The results indicate a cross-cultural frustration with the inability to find parking in popular urban areas. For instance, in the past year, nearly 6 out of every 10 drivers have abandoned a search for a parking space, forgoing their plans. More than a quarter have gotten in an argument with another motorist over a parking spot.

Such extended parking hunts are bad for the city as well: IBM has estimated that 30 percent of city congestion stems from motorists looking for parking spaces. Swaminathan cited a year-long study that showed that, within a 15 block district in Los Angeles, drivers drove around for an excess of 950,000 miles, producing 730 tons of carbon dioxide and using 47,000 gallons of gas.

Swaminathan did not reveal pricing for the Smarter Parking Starter Kit, though he said it would be willing to work with cities to arrive at creative financial terms. He argued that the system would pay for itself as cities make more money by monitoring and managing their parking spots. They could also use it as the basis for providing more advanced services later on, such as the ability for users to extend parking time through an smart phone app.

IBM found Streetline through IBM's SmartCamp program, where startups around the world can compete to partner with IBM and provide technologies for Big Blue's SmarterPlanet-themed system offerings. Streetline was the 2010 winner of the SmartCamp World Finals, besting over 600 other entries.

"Streetline was a young startup company with no major funding but it had a very robust solution," said Claudia Fan Munce, who is the IBM managing director of the company's venture capital group. It was a good example of a new technology showing "how to use IT to enable better, smarter ways of people to live," Munce said.

 

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