Enter Streetline, a 30-employee company in San Francisco that creates and installs wireless sensor networks to monitor parking spaces. Each sensor uses a magnetometer to detect the presence of large metal objects nearby.
“If the sensor is within two or three feet of the car, it will register a huge increase in metal,” explains Zia Yusuf, 45, the company’s chief executive. “When the metal content suddenly drops, we know a car left.”
The sensors communicate wirelessly, signaling whether spots are occupied or vacant, gradually collecting data to reveal local parking patterns. That information allows cities to price their parking spaces according to their actual value, factoring in supply and demand as they would with any other piece of real estate.
With that data, cities can both help ease congestion and boost their meter revenue.
Streetline charges its clients a monthly usage fee of $25 to $30 per sensor. The fee covers installation, maintenance and management of the software that collects and distributes parking data. The company does not publicly disclose financial information, but Yusuf says that Streetline is now raising its second round of funding and expects to see its annual revenue rise by 75% for 2011.
“I think this technology will transform urban transportation,” says Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs.
He cautions, however, that city governments are rarely early adopters, and signing them up as clients typically involves many bureaucratic headaches.
So far Streetline has set up networks in areas including parts of Los Angeles, Roosevelt Island in New York City, the parking lots at Fort Totten Metro station in Washington, D.C., and a garage at the conference center in Salt Lake City’s Temple Square. The company has also released an iPhone application called Parker, which shows drivers how many parking spots are available on blocks within the sensor network. An Android version is in development.
Source: Wireless Sensor Networks