Co-authored with Dani Schrakamp

Let there be light…and parking spots!

There’s nothing like the quiet (or in my case, not-so-quiet) desperation of circling a few city blocks, over and over again, looking for a spot to park. You can almost feel your sanity slipping away. The search for a parking space is not only terribly frustrating; it is also a major contributor to traffic congestion and carbon emissions.

And we all love the classic case of walking home at night, tripping every few steps because, unbeknownst to you, no streetlights seem to cooperate and come to life in your neighborhood. For municipalities, street lighting is an essential maintenance effort to help improve public safety and the overall citizen experience, influencing a city’s ability to create a lasting environment for business and tourism. Unfortunately, community lighting is also a major energy and cost drain.

Of late, there is a consistent slashing of public budgets that must somehow be managed, while still meeting the growing demands from communities under the pressure of rapid urbanization. However, cities around the world are overcoming these challenges with the Internet of Everything.

In particular, communities are developing digital strategies to better address parking and city lighting needs, yielding a widespread and shared benefit. For example, with easier access to parking, citizens are facing less traffic, saving money on fuel, receiving more convenient payment options, and experiencing an overall improvement in quality of life. On the flip side, civil servants can better detect and report parking violations, increasing community revenue. Similarly, smart lighting management can contribute to a safer community. And city officials can reduce energy consumption, cost, and maintenance, all while positively contributing to the environment.

Digital Date Night

Remember that for this series our digital citizen is an average community member going about their daily routine. Today’s blog will follow along as the digital citizen engages in the simple wonder of the first date.

Our citizen is in route to the restaurant, a nice first date spot in center of downtown. On a Friday night and running a few minutes late, free parking spaces are ever elusive. Not for our digital citizen. Aided by a smart device application, prime parking is found quickly and easily.

Apps such as these have the ability to track empty parking spaces and direct drivers to those spots. Normally, parking systems and processes have delays and are intended just for reporting on capacity levels. But by using, for example, software to do real-time analysis, the results are constantly updated. This allows businesses and communities to direct drivers to any parking vacancies, pulling consumers into economic centers and spurring local business growth.

date night_with quoteAnd in the case of the digital citizen, use of the app directed the date-goer to a parking space just around the corner from the restaurant. Our citizen is on time, the date is saved, and all is well. On average, this digital shortcut saved our citizen anywhere between 20 to 45 minutes of searching for a parking spot.

Smart parking initiatives are showing immense promise with quelling traffic congestion, noise problems, and issues of air quality. Santander, Spain is experiencing an 80 percent reduction in downtown traffic congestion, reducing travel times and environmental pollution. And in Barcelona, smart parking technology is increasing city revenue by millions of dollars and helping to create thousands of new jobs.

Dinner is now over, our digital citizen and their first date companion have hit it off. A romantic walk in the park is now in order.

City parks at night can often be dangerous, viewed as potential places taken over for undesirable activities. Compounding this, a large volume of criminal activity is known to occur more often under the cover of darkness. Lighting, however, enables lawful users to see each other during hours of darkness and thus providing a heightened situational awareness. Acting as a natural surveillance, some believe proper city lighting during hours of darkness can deter crime up to 20 percent.

Meaning that back on our first date stroll through the digital community park, smart lighting technology not only reduces outages and takes preventative maintenance measures, it also incorporates cameras, sensors, and Wi-Fi networks to monitor public safety. From its own smart lighting experience, the city of Oslo is more connected to the lights than ever before. Previously, city officials had to drive to the specific light location in order to see if a light was on. Now, status of individual lights are visible from an Internet-enabled terminal, helping to contribute to $1.3 million in electricity savings annually, which is roughly 20 percent of the cost to light streets prior to the new capabilities being added.

But higher efficiency bulbs and simple control systems that allow for things like preemptive maintenance just scratch the surface of the potential advantages cities can gain from their lighting systems. Communities like Amsterdam are paving the way and taking advantage of the Internet of Everything potential. As it seems, smart lighting and parking technologies are providing foundational bedrock for community digital strategies.

Next Stop

Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s post to discover more information about the importance of securing the Internet of Everything through the lens of mass transit. And be sure to check back each week as we explore new themes, challenges and observations.

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For more information and additional examples, visit our Smart+Connected Communities page and our Government page on Cisco.com. Enjoy the Wednesday walkabout!


Markus Wissmann


Industry Solutions and Smart+Connected Communities Sales, EMEAR