Parking spots of the future being tested in Stratford, Ont.

Stratford has launched a new smart parking pilot project that aims to pave the way for the future of parking in the city.

City embeds 78 sensors under parking spaces near city hall

Stratford's new smart parking pilot project aims to make it easier to find a parking space in the city. (CBC)

Stratford, Ont. has launched a new smart parking pilot project that aims to pave the way for the future of parking spots.

The new initiative is powered by a Long Range Wireless Area Network (LoRaWAN) and includes 78 sensors embedded in the asphalt in parking spaces. The choice locations are downtown around city hall, Naeem Khan, manager of information and business systems for the City of Stratford, told CBC Radio.

Together the technology provides real-time information on whether a parking space is occupied or empty, and over time the data created will help detect trends, build reports and track parking usage.

But the main perk for drivers will be that they can see exactly which streets have the most parking spots, before they get there. 

Parking spot spotting

"You can look at the map before leaving your location and see if a street [has] 20 spots versus another street [that has] five spots," Khan said.

The sensors, also known as 'pucks,' are slightly bigger than traditional pucks. They were encased, placed approximately four inches below 78 parking spaces and covered with liquid asphalt. (City of Stratford)

The sensors in the parking spots on Wellington, Downie and Albert streets are also smart enough to detect if there's something like snow in that location.

"If there is snow, it will still be fine," Khan said. "The sensors detect the metal and not the weight."

One caveat is motorcycles, which he says may or may not show up as having filled a parking spot. Khan adds that the city is still testing that. 

The pilot project has placed sensors in parking spots on Wellington, Downie and Albert streets, near Stratford's city hall. (City of Stratford)

Data to be open

Stratford partnered with tech companies eleven-x and FoxNet as well as Canada's Open Data Exchange (ODX) for the initiative and also plans to make available the data collected through the pilot project.

"The data from the smart sensors used in this project will be open to the community online, enhancing smart connectivity," ODX managing director Kevin Tuer said in a press release. "We're excited to further help smart city and IoT (Internet of Things) initiatives and are happy this has been done on a framework which creates opportunities to work with open data."

The data collected from the pilot project could make its way into apps like Google Maps and Waze. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Khan says making the data open means that someone could build a parking application for the city or companies like Google and Waze could incorporate that into their existing applications.

No tickets, yet 

The information could also theoretically be used to help the city hand out parking tickets if a vehicle has been on the road for longer than the four hour limit, but Khan says currently the project is focused on whether a parking space is full or not.

"Right now the information that we are collecting through this project is only if there is a vehicle parked or not," he added. "There is no other information that is being collected or shared at this point other than if there is a vehicle parked or not, so no personal information is collected or shared."

The ODX has committed $50,000 of funding for the initiative with the remainder of the $100,000 project coming from Stratford's parking reserve fund.

The pilot will last until the end of the year and will be the basis of several council reports. The information from the sensors will be made available online later this year.