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Parking, no worries - a solution is possible!

Parking, no worries - a solution is possible!

Nations and cities with high population density and improved road networks are nonetheless being confronted with road congestion issues because they lack efficient parking management facilities in public and private parking areas, both indoors and outdoors. In a country like Malta, this situation is exacerbated due to its small size and the fact that there are too many vehicles on our narrow roads.

Have you, at any point, attempted to park a vehicle in Sliema at around 9am? After getting to a desired location, drivers cannot find any available parking spaces and often waste time driving around the area looking hopefully for a vacant parking spot. This all too common situation brings about unnecessary fuel consumption, high pollution and serious frustration, besides adding to traffic congestion.

However, through adequate ICT systems, the digital world could help to manage car parks and prevent traffic congestion, giving the average driver a more satisfactory experience. Despite the fact that a few areas such as St. Julians and Sliema have been provided with modernised private parking areas (some even being multi-level), such private car parks sadly still do not reach the maximum potential that a car park with a smart parking management system would. Even though some car parks have installed screens which indicate how many parking spaces are available within the area, this is not enough. Keeping in mind that such car parks can sometimes be multi-level and very large in size, drivers still need an indication of the location of an available parking space.

Local research has been carried out recently, making use of a prototype system, with the sole purpose of proving that the digital world can be of help when it comes to efficient parking management. Studies were made on feasible solutions for creating a completely automated and intelligent parking management system that adequately oversees indoor and outdoor parking spaces. The outcome was a series of integrated systems that could easily provide a viable solution, some of which are described hereafter.

A device has to be installed at every parking space to ensure that the area is monitored and the status of each parking space can be indicated (occupied or vacant). Through an easy to use interface, available as a mobile application, each parking space is plotted on a parking area map, shown as a marker. When accessing the app, the users can associate with each device by clicking directly on the respective marker. The system will indicate the availability status of the parking space as occupied or vacant. As users should even be able to pre-book parking spaces, each device will have been fully equipped with three particular coloured lights that show the status of the parking space the moment the driver physically enters the parking area; amber – pre-booked, red – occupied, and green – vacant. Furthermore, this parking management system would use image recognition techniques with the capacity to recognise vehicle license plates, enabling further tracking of vehicles within the parking area.

An additional objective of this study was to discover commercial opportunities which would facilitate the implementation of more advanced intelligent parking systems locally. Any and all technological improvements would definitely be welcomed, particularly when they are assisting in the reduction of stress from what has become such a hectic task as parking!


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