Some of life's biggest sources of frustration often seem trivial. Take, for instance, the process of finding a parking spot. When you can't find one, few things can be more stressful. Fortunately, one company is using technology in an effort to eradicate parking nightmares. California-based Streetline has partnered with cities, universities, parking garages and transit agencies in the United States and internationally to build a large, smart parking network that helps those partners increase efficiency. The network is powered by ultra-low-power wireless sensors that it deploys in its partners' locations. The data collected by those sensors is analyzed by the company's Smart Parking Platform to accurately and reliably determine parking availability. Streetline's data is incredibly detailed. For instance, it knows the difference between metered and unmetered spaces, and it can identify special kinds of spaces, such as electric vehicle (EV) and accessible spaces. Obviously, the data Streetline gathers has the potential to be of great value to consumers, so the company built Parker, a mobile parking guidance app available on iOS and Android. It gives consumers access to information on more than 24,000 parking lots and garages in more than 30 cities, along with up-to-the-minute data about space availability. The company also offers a free ParkerData API that provides information about parking locations. Now, having tracked more than 225 million parking events, Streetline is seeking to alleviate the pain of parking for even more consumers by unveiling an API that others can use to incorporate the company's parking availability data into their own offerings. "We consider ourselves a data and analytics company and our goal is to disseminate the information through as many channels as possible," stated Streetline SVP of Product Management Vito Salvaggio. With the ParkerData Availability API, third parties can display Streetline's real-time parking availability data in their own apps and on their own devices. The API, which is RESTful and returns data in XML and JSON formats, is currently being used by a number of Streetline customers. One of those customers, a corporation with a large campus, is using the ParkerData Availability API to power dynamic signage. "With the majority of employees arriving to campus at the same time each morning, getting employees parked, and parked quickly, is essential. By strategically placing dynamic signs to inform motorists of parking availability by row on the campus, the company can alleviate not only congestion on the campus but also on the surrounding city streets, and help employees get through the door and to their offices more quickly," Salvaggio explained. Another customer, a large university, is using Streetline's parking availability in its own campus transportation app to support a “complete streets” initiative. When the parking lots closest to campus are full, drivers can use the app to locate a more distant lot at which a shuttle stops. This not only gives drivers the ability to get to their final destination more quickly, it also alleviates campus congestion and gives the university the opportunity to make more efficient use of its resources.
The power of the Internet of Things
By some estimates, parking is a $100 billion market globally. Not surprisingly, that has attracted a number of upstarts to the space. Several, such as ParkWhiz and ParkMe, also offer APIs that provide availability information, but many of Streetline's competitors don't create their own sensor networks. Instead, they address the issue of real-time availability by focusing exclusively on reserved parking or relying on data from existing sources. While the use of sensors to make physical objects smart in many cases won't be noticed by most individuals on a daily basis and may sometimes be cost prohibitive, Streetline demonstrates that the Internet of Things isn't limited to behind-the-scenes applications and that the costs of setting up infrastructure may be well worth it. By using technology to track parking availability and making the data available via API, Streetline has the opportunity to make life easier for potentially millions of people who frequently find it unnecessarily painful to get from point A to point B on a daily basis. And thanks in part to Streetline's new API, the company has the opportunity to build a valuable business while doing so. "We believe data will be an increasingly important and growing part of our business. The ParkerData Availability API has already proven to be an attractive part of the Streetline offering," Salvaggio told me. "We see parking as an ingredient and by releasing the ParkerData Availability API, we have made an important step toward facilitating the proliferation of our real-time data to make journey-planning a seamless task."