Sick and tired of circling the block in the vain hope of finding an open parking space? There could soon be an app for...

Sick and tired of circling the block in the vain hope of finding an open parking space? There could soon be an app for that in a city near you.

IBM and Streetline, a company using smart technology to tackle the perennial lack of parking in urban areas, have started working together to help cities ease traffic congestion and put an end to motorists’ Sisyphean hunt for a place to park.

That’s no small task, but the payoffs could be considerable. Experts estimate that searches for parking cause 30 percent of urban traffic congestion. And in a global survey last year of commuters in 20 cities around the world, IBM found that drivers spend an average of nearly 20 minutes looking for a coveted spot.

In addition to the potential loss of business from motorists who give up looking for parking, all that fruitless circling carries other real costs. One year-long study of a 15-block district in Los Angeles found that drivers logged more than 950,000 miles while searching for a spot to park, using up 47,000 gallons of gas and at the same time emitting 730 tons of carbon dioxide.

Using data from Streetline’s on-street parking sensors and applications, IBM aims to apply advanced analytics and information management to generate smarter insights into where, when and why parking is most troublesome. That information could help cities find better ways to manage and improve their transportation systems, which would not only keep citizens happier but help use municipal resources more effectively and optimize parking-related revenue.

“Today, there is a massive amount of transportation data available that can help cities alleviate congestion and improve transportation services, such as parking,” said Gerry Mooney, general manager of global Smarter Cities for IBM. “It’s critical for cities to be able to turn this data into information and insight so they can anticipate and avoid situations that cause congestion, while simultaneously improving the services they provide citizens and businesses.””

Parking is one of those universal challenges that most people around the globe can relate to,” said Zia Yusuf, president and CEO of Streetline.

The “Smarter Parking Starter Kit” developed by IBM and Streetline is a pre-integrated offering that comes with instrumentation, connectivity and intelligence. The solution is designed to help cities:

  • Provide real-time information to help citizens and visitors to find parking more easily;
  • Gather, analyze and act on information about parking resources and services to optimize revenue;
  • Analyze real-time information to better model and anticipate problems to reduce congestion, more appropriately price parking based on demand and provide enhanced services to citizens; and
  • Integrate real-time information from on-street and off-street parking to enable better decision-making in the face of events, changes in parking availability and demand.

Streetline’s smart parking platform detects the presence of a car through a network of ultra-low power wireless sensors located in individual parking spaces. This information is then made available in real time both to the city, as well as to consumers via Parker, a free smartphone app via the iTunes Store or Android marketplace.

Using this real-time parking data combined with IBM’s advanced parking analytics, cities can better understand important factors like hourly occupancy, occupancy by block, parking duration, and trends by area.