A smartphone app for a Smarter City: Parker by Streetline

Have you ever struggled to find a parking spot in a big city? And whilst driving around in circles have you ever dreamt of a service that lets you know where the free parking spaces are? In this era where our smartphones can tell us when the next subway train is coming and where there’s traffic congestion, is this really too much to ask?

Apparently not according to Streetline.

Earlier this year the San Francisco-based tech firm launched the free Parker app which not only shows you where the parking meters are located, but also shows you which meters are available. Forget circling a five-block radius waiting for a spot to appear. With this app (currently available for iPhone and Android) you can pinpoint and snag that elusive space.

Not only does this save you gray hairs: you also cut down on emissions and congestion. The Parker app fits neatly into IBM’s Smarter City vision: one that fully utilizes technology to help us humans live more efficiently in urban spaces where close proximity. So it’s no wonder that Streetline won IBM Global Entrepreneurship Program’s SmartCamp 2010.

What are the key tenets of a Smarter Planet? These solutions should be Instrumented, Interconnected and Intelligent.

The Parker app demonstrates this wonderfully:

Instrumented

Streetline captures data using self-powered sensors mounted in the ground at each parking space which can detect whether or not a space is vacant. The Parker app uses your smartphone’s location sensors to know where you are and highlight local parking spots. It also uses the large screen to display a dynamic map of the nearest spots (rather than just display a list of street addresses).

Interconnected

The parking meter data from the sensors is transmitted across ultra-low power mesh networks to Streetline servers which build a real-time picture of which parking meters are vacant. This information can be shared with drivers through the Parker app, and also with city officials, operators and policy managers.

Intelligent

The Parker app is a perfect example of turning data into insight. Plotting vacant parking spots on a map helps you find a spot faster, with the added benefit of reducing congestion and emissions in busy metropolitan areas. The app even goes further: once you park, the app uses this information to provide walking directions back to your vehicle and can record how much time you have on the meter and alert you when time is getting short.

Download Parker now to see this app in action for yourself (currently available in a limited number of metropolitan centers around the US).