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The Next Frontier for Connected Cars

In 2006, UCLA Professor of Urban Planning Donald Shoup compiled the results of 16 surveys carried out between 1927 and 2001 on the time spent looking for a parking space. He reported that the average time spent looking for on-street parking was approximately eight minutes – a figure that has remained relatively unchanged since the 1930s.

This research also demonstrated that, on average, one vehicle in three in traffic is actually searching for somewhere to park. This figure has been confirmed more recently by a study from the San Francisco City Council, which concluded that an estimated one-third of weekday traffic was because of drivers looking for a parking space.

While solving the problem of road congestion via accurate traffic information has been looked at for decades – the RDS TMC protocol was invented in 1988 – and has already reached a good level of sophistication and accuracy, solving the parking problem via connected services is quite a recent topic and is still very much a work in progress.

As a matter of fact, most pure players in this field have been founded quite recently: as an example, JustPark in 2006; Parkopedia, ParkMe, Worldsensing and Anagog in 2009; and Parknav in 2011. The only companies to have emerged earlier are the parking payment companies, PayByPhone and Parkmobile, in 2000 and Pango in 2005.

On-Street and Off-Street

Parking essentially divides in two markets with two very different problems to solve: off-street and on-street. Connected services taking care of off-street parking are now quite advanced. In the three steps of information, booking and payment, the first is largely available (even if real-time data remains partial), but booking and advanced payment are still works in progress. Very few cars on the road today – or navigation apps – are able to find, book and pay seamlessly for a parking space in a garage.

The on-street parking problem is, by nature, more difficult to solve because detecting free parking bays in real time, at scale is complex and requires many sources of information. There are very different approaches to create this data.

Leveraging Traffic Probe Data for Parking

One is to make sense of the existing probe data currently used for real-time traffic. For example, Garmin is using this data to calculate the inflow and outflow of cars for each road segment in large cities and estimate availability (read here). The company has partnered with Parkopedia to include off-street parking information in their data model.

The GPS company launched this service in their mobile app during the third quarter in six German cities and is now adding cities in more countries: London, Amsterdam, Vienna and a few others coming in the U.S.

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Inertial Data From Smartphones

Detecting parking and “unparking” events through inertial sensor data from drivers’ smartphones is another approach used by Anagog, which built a software development kit now embedded in several million apps (watch here). Through a signal processing algorithm, the company detects out of gyroscope, accelerometer and location data (GPS, etc.) parking events that are fed to a big data cloud that is now nearing 1 billion historical parking events.

Data From Car Sensors

Car makers such as Volkswagen (read here) or General Motors are also looking at producing data using car sensors.

In the case of Volkswagen, a pilot launched by the company uses the existing ultrasonic proximity sensors (used for parking) to assess the availability of free parking spaces on the side of the road when the car drives along a street. The data is uploaded in real-time and matched against map data to eliminate false positive (parking space for disabled people, etc.).

Parking Meters

Using data from on-street parking meters is another opportunity to get real-time, on-street parking information. Because a significant number of these meters are connected to the cloud, it is possible to build predictive data based on historical trends. Parkeon, a worldwide leader in parking meters, is among the companies enabling that opportunity and rendering this data through a mobile app, Path To Park (read more here), which is now available throughout France and in a number of cities in the U.S. and Germany.

Street-Based Sensor Infrastructures

Lastly, companies such as Worldsensing are placing sensors on each parking bay in the street, which obviously provides the most accurate data, but at a cost. Worldsensing, based in Barcelona, just closed a series B round of funding (for an undisclosed amount). Its largest deployment to date was in Moscow, where the company covered 13,000 spots. The next stage of the deployment will include more than 50,000 sensors.

Image processing is also a technology that could be used to sense free parking bays in streets. Data from fixed CCTV (used for security or traffic monitoring), smartphone apps, connected dash cams or even cars could be used for that purpose.

Obviously, the best information will come from the aggregation of these data streams (historical and real-time). Inrix, which announced in June that it will supply on-street parking data to BMW, combines data from cities, mobile payment companies, real-time parking data, connected car-sharing services and Inrix’s database of real-time vehicle GPS data (read here).

Parknav, a start-up based in the U.S. is also using a very diverse set of data (car-sharing, telecom, fleet, crowd-sourcing), including POI data (bars, schools, etc.) to infer probabilities about parking availability.

Accurate information about free on-street parking bays is a complex matter that will take many more years to solve, but the opportunities are huge for the whole car industry and beyond. The first opportunity is the time saved for drivers and the alleviation of stress and frustration. Once this first opportunity will be realized for drivers, its overall social impact will be big: less traffic, less pollution, less money spent on fuel.

Unused Parking Inventory

The last market opportunity in smart parking is to further eliminate barriers between the offer and the demand, between people circling in streets and empty parking bays, in enabling yield management of underused private parking inventory.

Residential buildings, companies, hotels, schools, hospital or churches have parking spaces that are empty or partially used during workdays, nights and weekends, vacations, etc. Companies like JustPark (UK) or Zenpark (France) are targeting this segment using connected technologies to unlock the value of this inventory and grow the total parking spots available.

On Jan. 28 in Brussels, the ConnecteDriver conference, in partnership with consulting firm Inov360, will gather the brightest minds and the most innovative companies to discuss the fascinating topic of smart parking:

– Hans-Hendrick Puvogel, COO at Parkopedia
– Anthony Eskinazi, head of product and co-founder, JustPark
– William Rosenfeld, CEO, ZenPark
– Bertrand Barthelemy, president of Parkeon
– Ruth Portas, sales manager, Worldsensing
– Ofer Tziperman, CEO, Anagog
– Martin Treiblmayr, product manager, Garmin
– Vincent Pilloy, co-founder and CEO, Inov360
– Parknow (speaker name to be confirmed)

Dead Reckoning and Board Risk

There is a navigational term called “dead reckoning.” It is taken from the period before radar and GPS. Back then, navigators used the sun and the stars to get from point A to point B, until point B got to within sight.

It worked as follows: Once you knew where you started, knew where you were going and knew your speed, you could use the sun and the stars to set your bearings and chart a course. There was always much uncertainty and large margins for error built into navigational estimates.

This is what board risk governance looks like today. Instrumentation is poor. Most available data is not current. It does not tell us where we are today. It is historic. It’s a bit like buying last month’s newspaper today. Interesting, useful, but not up to date.

In the board room solace, or concern, can be taken from management information. However very many non-executive directors are nervous. They know that they are getting old news. They know that they carry the same statutory obligations as their executive director colleagues but that the executive directors have the most up-to-date news.

The boardroom equivalent of the crow’s nest includes strategic and integrated reports as well as risk reports on what today are highly networked organizations. Organizations are no longer vertically integrated. Organizations no longer have jurisdiction or control over all of the non-financial activities (i.e. the operations) that drive business results. To make matters worse, we live in a hyper-connected, multispeed, uncertain world where multiple things can have multiple impacts on reputation and business operations.

In the boardroom, there is an awful lot more uncertainty than certainty.

What Nassim Nicholas Taleb has told us is his seminal, spine-chilling Black Swan and Antifragility is that not only are we buying yesterday’s news but that the news we are getting is hugely erroneous. He talks of the ludic fallacy, much of which is embedded in contemporary risk management practices.

What Taleb is also telling us is that discontinuity is the new norm. And that the organizations that will thrive in the future are the ones that will take their energy from that discontinuity.

But how is this to be done?

From 35,000 feet, it looks like integration of risk, strategy and decision-making processes.

At 500 feet, it looks like measurement of alignment (remember this is dead reckoning!) with both internal organizational and international proven and accepted guidelines linking risk, strategy and decision-making processes.

Can organizations move beyond dead reckoning and get better instrumentation? Absolutely! I will come back to this in a later post.

In the meantime, consider the prize:

Empirical evidence underpinning an assured calculation of:

  1. Sustainability of current performance,
  2. Enhancement of future performance,
  3. Soundness of transformational strategies,
  4. Management capability to defend reputation and operations under abnormal and adverse conditions,

This makes a difference when talking with credit raters, funders, investors, regulators and a whole swath of other stakeholders.

What’s the barrier to entry for organizations?

Is it cost? Not really.

It is:

  1. Integration of board audit/risk/strategy committee(s)/terms of reference
  2. A track record in seeking and receiving external attestations
  3. Already understanding:

a. The value of linking corporate objectives, strategies, governance and risk management decision making processes,

b. Setting organizational agility as a strategic imperative,

c. The need to integrate governance, risk and compliance roles, processes and key performance indicators (KPIs)

The immediate gains? Access to, and lower cost of, capital than your less capable competitors

The immediate benefits?

  • Increasing management’s understanding of strengths and areas for improvement in integrating risk, strategy and decision-making processes across the organization
  • Supporting implementation of the organization’s strategy through improved alignment of objectives with mission, vision and values of the organization
  • Achieving and maintaining abilities to make, and execute, decisions across the enterprise, and seamlessly shift direction (called organizational agility), when called to:

– Grasp opportunities,

– Increase performance,

– Avoid threats and risks.

In my next post, I will talk about how we can get from dead reckoning to up-to-date calculations of risk, strategy and decision-making process integration — at the pace of change!