Parking meters open up new insights for cities

Municipal Parking Services uses cloud-based analytics to gain a 360-degree view of its customers

Municipal Parking Services (MPS) designs, develops, manufactures and markets technologically advanced parking solutions, such as its patented Sentry Meter and SAAS software — a connected device with built-in touchscreen and cameras that capture real-time data about drivers and parking behavior. The company knew that the data captured by its cutting-edge parking meters could be used for more than parking enforcement but how could it explore this data to unlock new insights?

How IBM Cloud data helps MPS

MPS implemented the Findability Platform, a sophisticated reporting and analytics solution developed by Findability Sciences. Analytics is helping MPS unlock new opportunities for cities and local businesses. The company realized that it could use the data captured by its meters to discover previously unknown relationships between parking and weather patterns, assist city planners and police, and deliver targeted messaging and advertising on its meters’ displays.

For instance, MPS can now see correlations between hot weather, events, holidays and demand for parking near specific areas, such as parks or beaches, helping cities set a fair market price for each space. The solution is designed to improve compliance, city-wide communications and enforcement.

“We originally thought our business was about parking compliance — but with analytics we’re seeing so many more avenues we can pursue,” says Rob Matthews, VP Sales and Business Development at MPS. “We can help police by identifying nearby vehicles when a crime occurs. We can display targeted contextual offers from local merchants that are meaningful to drivers of particular types of car. We can even design demand-based pricing models.”

The platform is powered by IBM BigInsights technology, and running in the cloud on SoftLayer, which provides a dedicated environment of virtual servers to support this parking analytics solution for MPS and is hosted at IBM data centers in the US.

Tom Hudson, CEO and co-founder of MPS, concludes, “This combination of technologies gives us the benefits of big data analytics: turning de-identified data into actionable items for the smarter city, and enabling new capabilities for merchants, consumers, traffic engineers, pollution management and new ideas to come.”

MPS originally used the Amazon cloud-hosting environment but switched to SoftLayer technology because it offered better security and performance, along with seamless integration with other IBM software assets such as the open-standards IBM Bluemix cloud platform for building, running and managing applications.

The use of SoftLayer allows MPS to avoid the cost of purchasing and maintaining its own infrastructure, and more importantly, enables the company to rapidly expand its capabilities as the business grows.