Practical Parking: PNI Sensor Corporation and Senet Roll Out LPWAN Solution

As published by IoT Evolution, May 18, 2017

One of the most interesting, “real-world” IIoT solutions introduced at the IoT World event in Santa Clara, California this week is PNI Sensor Corporation’s PlacePod high-accuracy smart parking sensor integrated with Senet’s Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) connectivity services.

Searching for parking in densely populated areas wastes time and fuel. And until recently, adding “geolocation” capabilities to each parking space has been complicated, cost-prohibitive, and challenging to engineer, deploy and manage. The desire to reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions and rising popularity of parking “apps” has driven increasing interest in smarter and smarter solutions. This is a market PNI identified years ago, driving them to develop an IoT-enabled, high-accuracy smart parking sensor that provides accurate vehicle detection in parking spaces.

With up to 10 years of battery life, and able to operate even in the context of extreme temperature fluctuations, PNI’s PlacePod sensor is considered one of the most accurate solutions for real-time vehicle detection and location of open parking spaces.

Why did they team up with the fast-growing North American provider of LoRaWAN™ protocol-based network services firm Senet? According to Becky Oh, President and CEO of PNI, this integration and partnership expands the technology ecosystem for their current and future “smart parking” customers.

“Now customers have the flexibility to customize their smart parking solution for their specific requirements and manage their parking resources using the Senet LPWAN within PNI’s parking cloud or utilize the Senet network for a private, on-premises deployment,” Oh said in a news release issued by both companies.

Senet’s public, standards-based and highly scalable LPWAN currently provides coverage in a total of 225 cities and 23 states, and can support millions of devices. LPWANs are differentiated by bi-directional communication, security, support for fixed, nomadic and mobile devices and localization capabilities – a natural fit for practical parking solutions.

“A leading promise of IoT is the technology’s ability to augment and improve existing infrastructure and services that citizens rely on every day, while delivering economic and environmental improvements,” Dave Kjendal, CTO and Executive Vice President of Engineering at Senet, stated in the announcement, indicating opportunities in a variety of market segments including municipalities, colleges and universities, airports, public spaces and malls, and other high density parking locations.

While the solution is still early-phase, as are many IoT and IIoT solutions, PlacePod sensors are already deployed at Semtech Corporation’s headquarters in Camarillo, California, with pilot programs at university campuses and municipalities also underway. (Semtech is also an IoT ecosystem partner working with PNI and Senet).

Multi-faceted Business Model
Parking asset owners or managers pay for the end-to-end PlacePod smart parking solution which includes the PlacePod smart parking sensors and the PNI parking cloud, which is now available via Senet’s network, extending the battery life of each sensor, and otherwise ensuring deployments are easier to set up and less expensive to maintain.

Where things get really interesting is in the creativity around the availability of PNI’s MQTT API and REST API.

Cities, for example, are able to monetize the real-time parking data to feed parking apps. By integrating this data with other municipal services, cities can reduce traffic by routing drivers to available parking spaces and eliminate ongoing cruising for parking spots.

Cities can also improve the efficiency of parking enforcement by alerting and directing enforcement personnel to specific parking spots where parking violations have occurred, rather than having enforcement officers spend time circling a “beat” to manually spot violations.

PNI does not provide an end-user app for drivers, but their parking system architecture enables custom third-party applications to visualize and use the real-time parking data for mobile users.

“IoT solutions give cities new opportunities to minimize urban congestion and improve the overall quality of life for residents and visitors. Ride sharing and self-driving cars will help minimize urban congestion, but parking today is one of the least efficiently managed resources,” Oh said.

“To deliver on the promise of IoT, a smart parking solution must provide accurate, real-time vehicle detection and location of available parking spaces, low power consumption at the device level, and connectivity from the sensor to the cloud,” she added.

“Implementing a complete smart parking solution will enable cities to manage parking assets more efficiently to increase parking revenue and manage parking violations, reduce carbon emissions produced by cars cruising for parking, save drivers time by guiding them to available parking spaces, and create new opportunities for improving urban mobility by connecting parking management to other city services,” said Oh.