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Vodafone tests app-based connected vehicle parking system

Vodafone has teamed up with Westminster City Council and plumbing firm Pimlico Plumbers to test a connected vehicle parking system in London

Mobile network operator supplier Vodafone has taken to the streets of London to test a car parking system developed by its xone innovation lab and startup AppyParking.

Xone has developed an aftermarket dongle, called drivexone, which plugs into a vehicle’s on-board diagnostics port and couples with the AppyParking app to offer a "one-click parking” payment system.

The firm enlisted Westminster City Council and domestic services firm Pimlico Plumbers to test out the system, which extracts data from sensors embedded in parking bays to feed real-time information on the availability of parking spaces to vehicles outfitted with the system.

Once they have parked, drivers click once in the app to start a parking session. At the end of the session the driver can simply pull away and will receive an email receipt to confirm the time of departure, meaning that unlike a traditional street-side parking meter, they are only charged for the time used.

It also provides information on congestion zone charging, parking restrictions and hourly charges.

“In essence, drivexone turns any car into a sensor, and will provide drivers with a range of diagnostic data about their journeys, as well as enabling applications like this one,” said Americo Lenza, head of xone at Vodafone.

Parking tickets

Pimlico Plumbers is one of the largest plumbing firms in London. Its 170 vans are a familiar sight on London’s roads as they attend around 100,000 jobs a year.

Engineer Peter Hillier, whose van was kitted out with the technology for the one-month trial, said the system had helped him focus more on the job at hand, rather than waste time finding spaces and battling with traffic wardens.

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“Time is money, and getting two or three tickets a month isn’t uncommon,” said Hiller. “Sometimes just getting a parking spot feels like a full-time job and the working man really doesn’t need the hassle. I found AppyParking very simple to use, allowing me to quickly park up and focus on my job.”

CEO and founder Charlie Mullins estimated the system could eventually save Pimlico Plumbers £100,000 a year, both in lower parking charges and fewer parking tickets.

Westminster cabinet member for parking Heather Acton said the council also saw huge advantages, including being able to show drivers the locations of the nearest and cheapest vacant bays and simplifying the often convoluted process of paying for parking.

The council also forecast that it would see a substantial drop in congestion as drivers using the system no longer have to circle around looking for parking.

AppyParking, which brands itself as an “Uber-style” service, plans to attempt a full-scale launch of the one-click parking system in September 2015.

Connected vehicles have come to be seen as a key element of the internet of things (IoT), as evidenced at Mobile World Congress earlier in 2015

Parking is one of the biggest applications of the connected vehicle to have so far been explored, both as a means to enhance day-to-day life and improve air quality by taking vehicles off the road. 

Analysts at Gartner believe reducing traffic congestion will be a "quick win" for IoT advocates. Besides Westminster City Council, Milton Keynes Council is also trialling smart parking services using its open-access IoT network.

Read more on Internet of Things (IoT)