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Can RFID Facilitate Parking?

Posted By RFID Journal, 08.17.2010
How is the technology being used to make parking areas more efficient?

—Name withheld

Municipal governments and companies are employing radio frequency identification in a variety of parking-related applications. The Port of San Francisco, in conjunction with the city's Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA), deployed a network of active wireless sensors that detect where and when cars are parked, in an effort to determine how street parking spaces are being used, and whether drivers are paying for them (see SF Uses Wireless Sensors to Help Manage Parking).

Administrators at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, a new hospital on the UCLA campus, have tested the ability of a network of sensors to monitor traffic in its garage. The goal was to make parking faster and easier for hospital visitors and staff members. In the long run, the data collected could also provide insights enabling the hospital to optimize the number of parking spaces allocated for workers and guests (see UCLA Hospital Hopes Smart Garage Expedites Parking).

Police officers in Hoboken, N.J., are now armed with handheld RFID readers, and are using them to read ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags embedded in city-issued resident parking permits. Standing alongside a vehicle and waving a handheld reader, an officer can determine whether a car is legally parked with the proper permit. The process takes just a few seconds, saving the city time and money. Previously, officers sometimes spent a minute or more just trying to determine if a vehicle had a permit, and if so, to locate it. Sometimes, the permit wasn't positioned in the proper spot, or was hidden by tinted windows or other obstacles, adding additional time to the process (see Hoboken RFID-enables Its Parking Permits).

IT consulting and software services firm Infosys Technologies has deployed an RFID-based parking system at its main campus in Bangalore, India. Before the RFID system was deployed, each employee had to stop his or her vehicle, roll down a window and wave a personnel badge, which contained a low-frequency (LF) RFID transponder, in front of a reader near the gate. Once the system verified the employee ID encoded to the card, the gate would lift. During the morning rush, those steps led to back-ups that, on occasion, extended out to the street.

To alleviate this problem, as well as help employees find parking spaces once they entered the garage, Infosys installed a combination of UHF RFID tags and magnetic sensors. Now, interrogators detect RFID tags embedded in windshield stickers attached to employee cars from as far as 3 meters in front of the gate. The readers send each tag's unique ID number to a middleware layer, which verifies that the employee associated with that ID has access to the garage. The middleware then transmits a trigger for the gate to lift.

Each time a car drives onto one of the parking levels, a magnetic sensor embedded under the entrance sends a signal to middleware that is part of a device-management and decision-making engine designed by Infosys for the application, just as an identical sensor embedded under the pavement leading off the parking level does. The middleware keeps track of the number of cars driving onto and off each level. When a given floor reaches its capacity for cars, the middleware triggers a "level full" message to appear on displays positioned before each level entry (see At Infosys, a 'Live Lab' RFID App Eases Parking).

And in 2007, the Finnish city of Oulu, together with RFID systems integrator ToP Tunniste, piloted a parking system on streets and in garages that would allow drivers to pay for parking with their mobile phones (see Finnish Parking Pilot Taps RFID Tags and NFC Phones).

If you've deployed an RFID parking system, let us know about it by posting information below.

—Mark Roberti, Editor,
RFID Journal

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