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RFID Monitors Parking Spaces for the Disabled

The English city of Westminster is using technology provided by Smart Parking to identify when unauthorized vehicles are parked in spaces reserved for specific motorists with disabilities.
By Claire Swedberg

In the City of Westminster, the council has assigned each of 193 residential parking spaces for use by the vehicle of a specific disabled resident, typically in front of his or her home. To manage those sites, the council requires that a traffic officer, known as a marshal, visit each space on a daily basis to ensure that it is being used only by that resident. However, Morgan says, the council's Parking Services department often receives complaints from permit holders that other vehicles are occupying their spaces.

The pilot focuses on the issue of non-permitted parking at individually assigned "White Badge" parking spaces. The solution includes an EPermit, Hooker explains, consisting of a 433 MHz battery-powered RFID tag that, when placed on a vehicle's windshield, transmits a unique ID number every few seconds via a proprietary air-interface protocol. When a permitted car is parked in its assigned space, a SmartEye sensor with a built-in RFID reader captures the EPermit's ID and forwards that information to the Smart Parking hosted server, where SmartRep software verifies that the car is authorized for that space. If the car lacks the proper EPermit, the software issues an alert to a parking marshal's mobile device.

Westminster's parking marshals use their mobile devices to access the SmartRep software and view live information regarding how parking spaces are being used. (Click on the above image to view a larger version.)
The pilot is still underway. "It's a little early to make a complete value judgement," Morgan states, "but as a technical proof of concept, the technology has worked." The system is successfully determining when a permit holder is parking, he adds, and sends an alert to parking marshals if an unauthorized vehicle parks in a dedicated disabled space.

The Westminster City Council intends to conduct a customer survey to determine the technology's effect on customer experience, Morgan says, "but current feedback [indicates] the technology has acted as a deterrent to people parking in contravention, and their bays have been freed up as a result."

Following the pilot, Morgan reports, the council will consider rolling out the EPermit technology to the remaining 129 dedicated disabled spaces. In addition, the council plans to evaluate a version of the technology in which the system would detect when a vehicle arrives at and leaves a space, and then base the parking payments according to those times. All of these options, he says, will be discussed in March.

Smart Parking has parking solutions installed at dozens of locations around the world, according to Rob Weaver, the company's contract and bid manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. However, the Westminster pilot represents the first to detect specific vehicles via RFID. Weaver says the technology to detect the presence of vehicles has been installed at 42 sites throughout 15 countries to date, with a total of 37,500 sensors currently in use.

Smart Parking designs and manufactures its own hardware, including the tags and readers used in the vehicle badges, as well as the road-mounted sensors. Westminster is now in the process of designing another function in its ParkRight app that would allow disabled motorists to identify disabled parking spaces for use by any disabled-authorized vehicle within their vicinity.

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