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Friday, June 14, 2013

Parking sensors, smart street signs and their implications for vehicle tracking systems

Imagine a robotic street sign that can anticipate points of interest for you as you approach it in your vehicle - using a host of information such as the time of day, holidays, weather, important local events, and location relevant social media data - like the start (or end) of nearby concert.  

That's the concept of a company called 'Breakfast' and their product called 'Points': a smart, dynamically rotating set of digital signage.

In an ongoing effort to setup intelligent parking infrastructure, several cities have started installing smart parking sensors to indicate when parking areas are taken, and when they have become recently available. These devices are placed in the pavement in order to detect when a vehicle is parked in an individual space.

How are these and other related sensors going to impact drivers and vehicle tracking systems?

In the future with a more prominent foothold for the 'Internet of things', machine to machine communication will be a given - not only will the parking sensor know that you've parked there, but it will be able to identify the vehicle's make and model, and in some cases, the VIN number as well.  The sensor will be able to securely relay your associated credit card information to the electronic parking meter, and verify that you don't have any prior outstanding parking or speeding tickets - while your in-vehicle navigation system suggests the closest parking spot to your destination - and your vehicle tracking services let your company, and your customer (or vendor/associate) know that you've arrived. 

Vehicle tracking system providers will have the opportunity to take the lead on this technology revolution by providing a variety of communication system integration features (such as integrated, GPS, Zigbee, RFID, OBDII, and/or Bluetooth voice and data connections) acting as a communication hub, and retrofitting vehicles with tracking and communication technology that will allow their owners to have relatively easy access to these systems.  This will allow for smoother integration between communication and automation devices that the driver/passengers are wearing or carrying; and the vehicular environment.

'Smart hubs' will be able to rapidly increase the uptake of integration with systems like hand-held or wearable communication devices, automated road systems, and Internet parking; which cities will be actively (and in some cases aggressively) setting up to help manage services like parking and traffic control, but also to handle crowd-sourced information for things like real-time traffic reporting by the vehicles, vehicle health, reporting accidents, road or environmental hazards, stolen vehicles, while also providing access to social features such as how close friends and family are in case you wish to setup an impromptu get together; not to mention location relevant ads for possible meeting places.

Why is all of this important?  Because the underlying driver for this technology will be the ongoing pressure regarding energy use, increased efficiency, and decreasing impact on our environment, which is going to continue to build over time; and this kind of flexible technology will be able to help to reduce overall costs while providing new amenities and efficiency to individuals, businesses, and governments alike.