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“Smart cities” are on the rise. Kiosks, buildings and vehicles are already sharing data to coordinate traffic management, reduce congestion, optimize energy use and provide access to real-time information for residents, businesses and other organizations. The promise of 5G connectivity — with its ability to boost data speeds and jumpstart cloud access — is expected to hasten the development of smart cities, giving millions of people a better urban living experience.

One of the most insightful discussions on this topic took place at Money20/20 in Las Vegas last week, as Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings shared his insights on the need for cities to become more efficient, safer and attractive to business. Joining the mayor in his keynote presentation at the Sands Expo and Convention Center were Craig Vosberg, president of Mastercard North America, and Trudy Norris-Grey, managing director of Microsoft CityNext. Mastercard is working to improve access to financial services for residents, visitors and businesses, while Microsoft is working with cities to optimize infrastructure.

Parking kiosks take center stage

Serving as an almost intentional backdrop to this discussion was an array of exhibits across the street at the National Parking Association convention at Caesars Palace, where innovations in traffic management equipment were on full display. City planners, real estate developers and garage operators flocked to see the latest digital API-enabled parking equipment.

Smart cities can incorporate data from all types of organizations, businesses and institutions, but traffic management is a cornerstone of improving the quality of urban life. Kiosks and other IoT devices equipped with sensors will be critical to improving traffic management.

The NPA trade show floor was filled with companies demoing mobile apps that can alert drivers to available parking and allow them to reserve spaces. Instead of picking up a ticket, they can wave their smart phone across a scanner that accepts mobile QR codes or barcodes. Some apps even allow drivers to redeem a parking reservation without having to stop at a pay terminal when entering a parking lot.

Kiosks that process cashless payments, display real-time information and incorporate sensors that detect traffic activity were also grabbing attendees’ attention. Kiosks can transmit real-time data to mobile networks to alert motorists of traffic conditions and available parking space, both on-street and off-, along with parking rates based on the demand at that particular time. License plate recognition cameras can eliminate the need to stop at an entrance gate, reducing the chances of nonpayment and ending the problem of lost tickets.

Some kiosks can integrate with garage management software to display advertising and public service announcements.

Vehicle counting devices deployed with kiosks can provide valuable metrics on traffic and parking that government agencies and property developers can use for urban planning.

Future technology to support smart cities

The NPA convention, which according to show organizers was the best-attended to date, also featured presentations demonstrating how ride sharing, electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles are affecting traffic, and how mobile networks, in concert with parking equipment, will interact with vehicles in real time.

As smart city projects evolve, governments and industry groups are working to create uniform data standards that will enable data-sharing among all the various stakeholders. Parking industry organizations are playing a key role in this discussion as kiosks and other parking equipment will provide much of the infrastructure for smart cities.

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