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Could Ghent, Belgium, Become The Face Of Smart Parking?

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The Smart Cities revolution is proceeding full steam ahead, with population centers worldwide adopting new ways to integrate data and connectivity into the urban experience. It is fascinating to watch this transition and see where the newest innovations are coming from: pandemic-resistant urban planning in Barcelona, electric driverless trams in Hong Kong, a hydrogen-powered city at the base of Mt. Fuji. But while many of these ideas are still theoretical, the city of Ghent, Belgium, is already implementing a new dynamic traffic control system. Set to premiere in 2022, the system will help drivers find parking, avoid traffic jams, and more.

Ghent’s Dynamic Traffic Control System: Enhancing Urban Mobility

Overseen by a consortium of local businesses specializing in intelligent traffic infrastructure, smart traffic solutions, and LED displays, the project will see Ghent replacing the digital occupancy information displays outside parking garages with full-color LED displays at 50 locations. These new displays will contain information about the occupancy of the present parking lot as well as those nearby, and share traffic information and alerts about roadwork, street closures, and travel times to nearby destinations. The R4 Ring Road around Ghent will also host digital signs guiding drivers to nearby park-and-rides, all of which will be updated in real time using a unique digital management system.

Ghent’s Integrated Traffic Management

This central management system will combine many traffic applications to track parking plus guide and control traffic. The city will have access to moment-to-moment information on traffic speed and mobility, the availability of public transit, and the capacity of parking in lots and structures throughout Ghent. This data can be combined with information from third parties and from crowdsourcing, then distributed to drivers using the digital LED screens. And the collected data can be shared via open source to support information of all kinds throughout the city, allowing driving and planning apps to access the same data and help users plan their trips.

Advancing Urban Convenience with Smart Technologies

This initiative in Ghent is just one example of how cities are swiftly adapting smart technologies to make life more convenient. In this case, digital communications, cloud data, crowdsourcing, and more come together to help drivers quickly and easily find parking, changing with every moment to keep up with developing conditions. As time goes by, new upgrades could become available, in the form of mobile apps that bring the information on the LED signs to the driver no matter where they are, or augmented reality interfaces in tomorrow’s vehicles that highlight departing cars or empty spaces, taking all the stress out of the parking experience.

Business Opportunities in Ghent’s Parking Innovation

For the parking lot owners and operators in Ghent, this new innovation promotes an even distribution of drivers and less stress among customers, but it also presents business opportunities. The owners of private parking lots — for example, in multifamily residences or office parks — could partner with the city to be included among the available parking facilities listed in the system, at once offering shorter drives between lots and less crowded lots overall, as well as overflow parking for busy days, while monetizing their own unused spaces.

Looking Beyond Ghent: Future Prospects of Smart City Technology

Ghent is proof that it is vital to recognize not only the usefulness of these new ideas, but the opportunities they represent. But with the technology that powers smart cities growing by leaps and bounds, how long until some city offers the same benefits via mobile phone (or automobile display) without having to place any signs?

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