Picture this: You’re rushing to make it to your appointment with a client and you know that majority of your time will go in search of a parking space. But not anymore, because all you can do is prebook your parking spot. Parking a car these days has certainly taken a whole new meaning, especially in the UAE. Technology has taken over all aspects of life and now it includes parking space as well. With more and more cars appearing on the road with each, passing day, it is becoming important to provide ample spacing for employees, residents, and visitors. Organisations have to become more involved in parking management, whether it be logistics, operation or a facilitator of advanced smart technologies.
If smart buildings use network-enabled building management systems to operate more autonomously with sensors from across the building managing everything from heating to security, why stop there? If the comfort of occupants is paramount, making sure they can find a convenient parking space and get into it without any hassle would make sense. When it comes to parking, there are many elements that come together that will, in turn, enable the consumer to park his/her vehicle. Green Parking has been a one-stop shop for all parking needs for more than 20 years now. Talking about how parking management has changed, Sam Alawiye, CEO, Green Parking, tells ‘FM today’ that it was far more mechanical in nature. “Today things are digitalized, with sensor and payment technology integrated into the management system. We now have unique features like parking guiding system, data analytics etc,” adds Sam.
So what exactly is ‘Smart Parking’? The term is fairly new in the field; however, most people associate it with parking space availability. This technology helps drivers find a vacant spot using sensors that detect the presence or absence of a vehicle in a parking space and dynamic messages sign incoming drivers to empty parking. According to Sam, Smart Parking is a combination of different technologies. “What you would like to achieve, is the question. As there are many different subsystems that come together to become more efficient, profitable, and sustainable,” adds Sam.
Already in the GCC, a number of smart space technologies are being deployed, particularly within the Dubai market. Residents in the country are quite familiar with the red or green lights and variable message signs that indicate parking availability. What may be less well-known, are the phone applications that display parking spaces in real-time. Sam says that one of the biggest challenges while providing a parking service is the fact that one is unaware of the customers.
In order to make the customers visible, they have introduced a ‘Smart Parking App’. “Through this app, the customer immediately becomes visible to us, in turn helping us reduce operation costs, maintenance, and we will also require minimum personnel to manage the parking space,” he adds. As one of the largest independent parking companies active in Dubai, Concordia oversees the management of 30,000 bays, providing an effective parking strategy that meets the demands of Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT). One of the goals of these strategies was to increase the utilization factor of the existing capacity.
“Concordia had to establish worldclass smart parking solutions to deliver turn-key automated parking solutions by integrating its inhouse developed systems with 3rd party parking equipment and systems. The solution has been customised for optimum connectivity with building management, access control, and guidance systems in mid to large-scale projects,” says Sanjay Bhatia, General Manager, Concordia.
“The challenges were identified and the strategy was developed around them. The entire team was clear that there were not enough bays available to deal with the high number of visitors and residents,” adds Sanjay. Accordingly, an approach encompassing - Consultancy, Equipment procurement and Installation, and Smart Parking Solution were carried out in phases to tackle this problem. Some of the solutions Concordia incorporated at JLT are RFID Cards that will enable customers to enter and exit; Near Field Communication Technology (NFC) that will issue virtual tickets to customers; Automatic Number Plate Recognition System; Parking Guidance Systems; and Mobile Parking Apps.
“After detailed deliberations and looking at the environment the technology needs to serve, Concordia created CPPS (Centralized Parking Permit System), an online platform for bringing together the supply and demand elements of parking within JLT thus creating an armchair solution that is both convenient for the end users, both, bay owners and bay users),” added Sanjay. While technology is only getting updated by the day, unfortunately, there are not many who are ready to invest in them. Sam says that the introduction of these technologies within the GCC highlights the region’s enthusiasm towards pushing the envelope and the willingness to put the unproven to the test. “However, there are few challenges when it comes to the specifications given in the tenders are not sophisticated enough and most of the time construction companies just abide by them instead of investing more on the technology that is there in the market,” added Sam. With the help of smart parking, smart cities in the GCC will be able to balance queues and on-street traffic flows by re-routing cars to alternate parking locations, based upon real-time occupancy data. As for the future, Sam says that in ten years’ time most cars will begin to directly communicate with the parking system and park by itself. “Then again it is key to remember that while technology is good, it does come with a cost,” he adds.