Cardiff launches Europe’s first citywide deployment of smart parking bay sensor technology


As part of its commitment to ensuring the Welsh capital is a high quality, attractive and liveable ‘smart city’, Cardiff City Council is launching Europe’s first citywide deployment of parking bay sensor technology with the assistance of Anglo-Australian company Smart Parking Limited.

Cardiff’s current population of 346,100 is growing rapidly, and by 2026 is predicted to increase by between 14-19% to 395,000-413,000. With that in mind, Cardiff City Council is using innovative technology to deliver tangible service improvements in city management, with a wide range of applications across its departments. Smart Parking Limited is aiming to transform the city’s parking experience through a combination of the following technologies:

• the installation of over 3,000 infrared vehicle detection sensors in on- and off-street locations;

• the use of ALPR (automatic license plate recognition) technology at off-street car parks across the city;

• variable message signage (VMS) strategically placed throughout the city, directing motorists to available parking;

• the introduction of SmartApp, the company’s real-time parking availability and guidance smartphone application.

The City of Cardiff’s original parking sensor pilot program in 2015 initially covered 275 bays but has now been expanded across the entire city. The program uses Smart Parking’s flush mounted, anti-slip profile RFID-equipped SmartEye sensors, which use advanced sensing technology to detect when a vehicle has occupied a parking space. Real-time data is then communicated to the company’s SmartRep back-office processing and analysis platform, which updates changes to parking space occupancy on a second-by-second basis.

Drivers are then able to access SmartApp to view an accurate live map of available parking spaces nearby or at a location that they plan to travel to. The technology is complemented by the council’s recent parking machine upgrade, where Metric Elite LS pay and display parking machines with new payment options, including credit card and pay-by-phone technology (MiPermit) are currently being installed across the city.

“Our primary focus is to encourage public transport, cycling and walking, and encouraging people to leave their cars at home,” explained Ramesh Patel, Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for planning, transport and sustainability.

“We do understand that sometimes travelling by car is necessary, either because public transport routes are not available or viable. This technology will ensure that people travelling by private car are able to find their car parking space quickly and easily. This will have a number of benefits, notably helping in our aim to reduce congestion and improve air quality levels in the city center.”

Paul Gillespie, Smart Parking’s CEO, commented, “The launch of our technology in Cardiff highlights the growing importance of smart city technology to not only manage parking, but to also equip city operators who perform smart city IoT planning with accurate data and insight, in order to radically change the way cities operate.

“This exciting citywide deployment will help the council to address the strategic and operational aspects of parking operations. This will help the council ensure that parking behavior does not negatively impact on the city and the people who live, work and visit it.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).