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Will San Carlos, Calif., Expand Sensor Technology Use?

San Carlos, Calif., officials hope the wireless sensor technology used in their smart parking pilot project could be expanded to other municipal infrastructure.

by / September 11, 2013
San Carlos, Calif., officials hope to expand the city's sensor technology used for parking spaces to other city infrastructure. Flickr/Curtis Perry

After piloting wireless sensors in parking spaces for nearly a year now, officials in San Carlos, Calif., have their eyes on expanding the technology across other city infrastructure.

Last December, the city began embedding wireless sensors in parking spaces that transmit data through the city’s Wi-Fi network to determine when a vehicle is occupying the space and when it is vacant. Drivers can use the information gathered from the sensors to find available parking using a smartphone app called Parker. The idea is that if drivers spend less time looking for a parking space, overall traffic congestion in the city can be reduced, said San Carlos’ Assistant City Manager Brian Moura.

Since beginning the project, San Carlos has deployed a couple hundred sensors, but the pilot phase won’t be complete until the end of this year. Moura said so far, smart parking technology has been a success for the city, but San Carlos should expand wireless sensor capability beyond parking spaces.

“We’re pretty intrigued in general of marrying wireless technologies and sensors in general because we think that in the future there will be more applications than just smart parking,” Moura said. “We think, for example, there are opportunities to put sensors on things like water systems, sewer systems, pumps, other infrastructure-related facilities that could give us real-time information on if there’s a leak or a break or something, so that you don’t have to have maintenance people monitoring these things in person.”

Moura said smaller-scale expansion plans for smart parking could hypothetically result in combining the sensor technology with more traditional means of directing drivers to parking spaces, like wayfinding signs.

“Maybe what we need to do after the pilot and thinking about what comes next is perhaps creating some marriage of the technology and the traditional signage,” Moura said.

Smart Parking for a Smart City

The parking app was launched in partnership with Streetline, and San Carlos’ sensor data is transmitted over a network hosted by Cisco. The city will utilize components of Cisco’s Smart+Connected City Wi-Fi service program, officially announced on Wednesday, Sept. 11, to help enable a more holistic approach to citywide wireless connectivity.

Currently, San Carlos is the only U.S. city that’s officially participating in the Smart+Connected City Wi-Fi program. However, other cities in Spain, Canada and Saudi Arabia have also signed on, according to statement from Cisco.

John Baekelmans, senior director and CTO of Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities program, said the new program will help cities connect infrastructures across a city. Serving as the foundation layer, the program is intended to help cities manage infrastructure related to public safety, parking and water systems, making them more efficient using city Wi-Fi.

 “It also helps to establish this ubiquitous network for other parties to come in and play,” Baekelmans said.

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Sarah Rich

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.

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