Services and Retail
Digital transformation

Digital transformation of parking restriction signs

The City of Antwerp decided to radically digitize the process of requesting parking prohibitions. As a first step, as the possibilities extend beyond the administrative phase.

Strategic challenge

A temporary parking prohibition can be requested to have the right to use the parking spaces in a street for a limited period of time. Reason for such request can be a move, but also construction works or an event.

In most cases, these requests were made via the official route, but many contractors and private individuals simply placed these signs without submitting an application. Those who have made an application often moved the signs to get more space, and some motorists were bold enough to push the signs one place further. A proliferation of signs was the result. Motorists were frustrated because they did not find a place while parking was prohibited in (too) many places, the applicants were dissatisfied because the police were not always able to enforce the parking prohibition, and the city administration could not do its job properly because there was no overview of ongoing prohibitions.

Approach

A project was defined to radically digitize the process, requiring multiple elements. In this project Möbius did the project management and part of the analysis. An external software vendor developed the software and the internal IT provider provided integration with the different other systems. The key users of the city of Antwerp provided input and analysis, and executed the tests.

Firstly, there is a portal site where citizens and contractors can receive information and initiate an application. The employees of the administration can then assess this request and approve or reject it, having access to much more information than before. They can immediately see if there are no other parking prohibitions applied for at the same place and at the same time, and if there are no planned events and construction works. The local situation can be viewed via a direct link with Google Street View. Also when a parking space for disabled people is taken, an equivalent alternative must be offered elsewhere within a short distance.

The third step is that the employees of the city will actually place the parking prohibition. They do this with an app that also takes a picture of the situation at the time of placement. Cars that were already parked when placing the parking prohibition cannot be fined, but if a car would park there after the prohibition sign has been placed, the picture is hard evidence that it wasn’t there before.

A few large contractors working in the streets on a very regular basis, such as utilities, can get a license to manage their parking prohibitions themselves. They too have to indicate in the software where and when their parking prohibitions will take effect so that all data will still be available in one place. This data can be accessed through a website at www.parkeerverbod.info. Anyone can either scan the QR code at the back of a prohibition scan, or zoom in on the map to the prohibition in question, and get information about the term, and the correct perimeter.

Intelligent signs

In a second phase, intelligent signs will be installed. These are equipped with e-Ink screens that will display the duration of the parking prohibition. Many prohibitions are extended during the term because works take longer than initially planned. Because the smart screens also have a communication module, updating the screens will be done remotely instead of someone on the spot rewriting the terms in chalk. Sigfox is used for communication, but other technologies are also possible.

When these intelligent boards are moved, an alarm goes off immediately. This is a siren, but also an alert to the administration is send. Theft is avoided, as well as making larger or smaller the space occupied by the parking prohibition.

Types of transformation in this case

This case is interesting because a digital transformation was made in all dimensions.

Production technology

3D printing was used to make a prototype of the smart module of the parking prohibition sign. This allowed for rapid prototyping to determine the weaknesses in the design in order to improve it.

Digitized products

The signs can be made digital by new technologies such as e-Ink, a better battery and a communication module that uses only little power through the use of Sigfox. With GPS positioning, moved signs can give an alarm in the control room, and stolen signs can be easily recovered.

Digitized services

By digitally supporting the process from the request to the collection of the signs, the communication is much smoother. Advice from internal and external services is done in the application instead of via e-mail.

By considering the applications for parking prohibition as cases, and using case management, everything remains structured with all relevant information together in the same place.

In the future, certain tasks can be taken over by bots. After all, there is no need for human treatment when an request does not conflict with known limitations.

A modular structure of the software ensures that information can be made accessible to such bots anytime, and that they can change the status of an application.

The digitized services make a paperless parking prohibition application possible… and we all know documents often get lost on construction sites, or just happen to be in the van that is picking up other materials!

Servitized products

In the past, people rented or bought the signs to place them themselves; in the new concept they pay for an ‘all-in’ service, including the license, the placement and the collection of the signs.

Product substitution

By centralizing the applications, there is no longer a market for selling and leasing prohibition signs.

New product domains

The foundations have been laid to digitally unlock all information so that one can search via the app for free parking spaces. This data will also be available in an open data format so that app builders can use it in their mobility apps.

Result

The city has a system that efficiently handles the requests. Because of the modular nature of the software, the functionalities could even be extended to other kinds of permit applications. When this is implemented, event organizers or contractors will only have to make only one comprehensive application that goes automatically through the necessary departments within the administration.

The possibilities extend beyond the administrative phase. A next step could be that private individuals will have the opportunity to offer their own parking space while they are at work themselves. Some cities already place sensors in the road surface that indicate whether or not a parking space is occupied. This information can also be integrated in an app. Dynamic signposts can direct traffic to places in the city where more parking space is available.

With an e-ink screen on the garage door it is even possible to make parking place in front of the house available in real time, although this practice is currently facing actual legal restrictions.

In any case, local authorities have an interest in embracing such evolutions to keep cities accessible to visitors.

Thanks for reading

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Peter Snoeckx

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