Smart parking spaces as the solution to more than one problem

Internet of Things (IoT) Hive

Building smart parking solutions with Hive for FC Utrecht

Going to the Galgenwaard for an afternoon at FC Utrecht is undoubtedly the highlight of the week for many locals. However, parking your car at the stadium often isn’t so pleasant. Under normal circumstances, the stadium can accommodate 23000 Utrecht supporters, yet there are only 3000 parking spaces in the immediate vicinity. Together with LINKIT, T-Mobile, ENGIE, The Valley, and others, FC Utrecht is investigating whether smart parking spaces can improve the parking convenience of the spectators. However, it’s not only that. Smart Parking has the potential to also be a solution for completely different challenges in the stadium area.

Enclosed residential areas

Niek Amelink, Manager of Business Development & Innovation at FC Utrecht, explains how things work. “We have mapped out how our visitors experience our matches, but also the trajectory around them. Mobility to and from the stadium was assessed mediocre. As a club itself, we have ‘only’ 500 parking spaces of our own. If we include the nearby parking garage that number is up to 3000. Until recently, fans therefore fled to the surrounding residential areas. To prohibit this the police now closes these areas to visitors on match days. Of course that’s not a good solution for anyone.”

The main question

Smart parking is potentially an ideal solution. By adding IoT sensors to the parking spaces, you can see whether they are full or empty and, more importantly, add a booking system. “Will the travel experience be better if you immediately know which parking space you can drive to and which is specially reserved for you?” asks Niek aloud. “We want to test this idea in the coming period.”

Innovation platform

To achieve this, FC Utrecht works together with a number of companies in an innovation platform, including Linkit. The parking project is a very interesting pilot for LINKIT’s cloud squad to test its newly developed IoT “Hive platform” in practice. The main sponsor, T-Mobile, is also involved in this. They take care of the connectivity side of things. “The Valley” is building the app for FC Utrecht with which you can book parking spaces while ENGIE provides electric charging stations.

Hive explained

Dick van Straaten, Cloud Lead at LINKIT and the creator of Hive, explains how the solution works. “Hive is a partial SaaS solution that allows you to manage IoT devices on a platform, but where you store all data locally. It consists of several modules: the Hive baseline, and the Hive Portal.”

“With the Baseline you can directly connect devices and receive data. Everything is stored in the customer’s own cloud environment. The Portal is an optional SaaS solution that is hosted by LINKIT. The main advantage of the portal is the ability to directly give commands to IoT devices. Single or in groups. Like the smart parking spaces. The same counts for running updates. The ready-to-use solution makes it possible for FC Utrecht to quickly roll out and test an IoT solution.”

Testing in practice

Niek explains how the club will do this together with LINKIT and the other innovation partners. “We are going to make twenty parking spaces ‘smart’. Our director can then test how the system works in practice. His secretary will book all his appointments via the app for a week. The idea is that if the visitor reserves a place in advance. He fills in his details, plus his license plate number.”

“When you drive on, the barrier will automatically go up. When parking, the box is displayed as ‘busy’ and a message is automatically sent to our director that his appointment has arrived. He can then wait for the visitor at the entrance.”

Greater potential

So, with smart parking, more is possible than you might think. For Niek, the overall potential is enormous. “If it works it would, of course, be great to offer all 3000 parking spaces in this way during match days. Perhaps you can even fill in how you want to drink your coffee when you arrive and reserve a spot near the gate for your ticket. Also, in terms of cooperation a lot is possible. Right next to the stadium is the hockey club “Kampong” which regularly plays games around the same time as FC Utrecht. Maybe we can offer the parking spaces together.”

“And, if they are full, we may be able to refer visitors to more distant parking spaces. But even if that is not possible, they at least know that they should not come by car, but by public transport. By providing this information in advance, our fans know where they stand and hopefully that will improve their travel experience.”

Densification area

But it doesn’t stop there either. The circle can be drawn a bit wider, Niek explains. “Two years ago we sat down as a club to shape our new strategy. Partly because the stadium area will change in the coming years. Utrecht is growing enormously. In the next twenty years, Utrecht is expected to have an additional population of 100,000. In order to absorb this growth, the municipality has designated the stadium area as a so-called densification area. That means there will be more homes.”

The issue of mobility

“These new residents undoubtedly also need to park their car somewhere. Thus, as the number of homes densify that becomes an increasing challenge, especially on match days. A challenge that more cities than just Utrecht are facing. Smart parking and being able to reserve your spot in advance has the potential to also contribute to these mobility challenges by reducing the amount of parking space-seeking motorists. Additionally, the municipality is aware of this project and is interested in seeing its progress. With a successful MVP (Minimal Viable Product) we will certainly involve them in the further development.”

A small solution for a big problem

In conclusion, you can say that something as ‘simple’ as installing some IoT sensors in parking spaces can be a catalyst for the liveability of the city. It not only has the potential to offer the fans of FC Utrecht a better travel experience, but also to face the mobility problems of today and of the future. A ‘small’ solution for a ‘big’ and increasingly growing challenge.

Important pilot

This is exactly how Niek sees the partnership with his innovation partners. “It is extremely interesting and valuable for us and for all parties if we can develop something like this together. This project with smart parking spaces is an important proof to showcase the potential in the future. We hope this is the beginning of something bigger.”

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