Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Research Result

Experimenting with smart parking: benefits and caveats for mobile parking app development

In cities, 30% of the traffic consists of cars searching for a parking spot. How can we make parking in the city for commuters and tourists more efficient, easier and environmental friendly? The ECIM project took this challenge by exploring opportunities for combining open data, mobile payment technology and the cloud. We followed an urban Living Lab approach to deliver a proof-of-concept of a smart parking app for European cities. Brussels was one of the four use cases (Brussels, Barcelona, Paris and Birmingham) in the project.

The ECIM smart parking app

The ECIM Parking app offered an experimental solution for Brussels that aimed to make the whole parking experience from finding to payment more efficient by:

  • Combining parking data about on-street and off-street parking providers
  • Offering a single payment module for different parking spaces
  • Showing parking availability
  • Enriching the application with point of interest and real time data about other public transport modes (bus, tram, train, Villo!, Cambio)

SMIT’s living lab approach reveals the impact of smart parking

Under SMIT’s guidance, a living lab study was set up in different cities that involved both co-creation activities as well as experimentation. It reveals the following benefits for visitors and commuters of the ECIM smart parking app:

  • Efficiency gain: Reduction of the number of apps that a citizen currently must use to find the right information
  • Improved monitoring and access: Because the app eliminates the use of cash, monitoring parking expenses and access to parking spots is improved
  • Multimodal and environmental friendly behavior: Visitors to the city started looking for parking spots close to public transport to get to their destination

Caveats for smart parking apps: Collaboration and advance reservation

The research also highlights two important lessons for developers and mobility organizations. Since different providers work together, there is a need to tell a common story and create a unified customer experience for the app. Creating a smart parking application is more than just merging data and information! Secondly, it seems that the usefulness of smart parking apps for city visitors, especially commuters, increases if reserving a parking spot can be made in advance. Commuters are willing to pay a small sum for this service if necessary.

More information on the ECIM project

This research took place between 2013 and 2016 in Brussels, Barcelona, Issy-les-Moulineaux and Birmingham. If you want to find out more about ECIM, you can do so at the ECIM project website.