In this age of information, the sources of data are plenty. No wonder, then, the buzz surrounding ‘big data’ is only growing louder. Today, the parking industry generates and collects more data than ever before, thanks to a growing adoption of smart parking systems. With the potential to transform several industries, big data has a lot to offer to parking. Be it a small facility or a big one, parking operators can take advantage of big data in numerous ways.
What is big data?
Big data refers to the large volume of structured and unstructured data that businesses generate on a daily basis. Such large and complex data sets can’t be processed using traditional data-processing applications. When filtered properly, such data can be analysed to make strategically sound business decisions by revealing patterns and trends that give an insight into human behavior. Across industries, businesses are fast realising the value of extracting insights from big data and the parking industry has caught up too.
Meaningful data matters
With smart parking solutions gaining ground, it is becoming rare (especially in the West) for parking officers to manually patrol an area and collect fees. Technologies such as digital pay stations and automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) are deployed for enhanced efficiency. While they do enhance operational efficiency, such technologies also deliver much more information, which can sometimes be too overwhelming to interpret. When this happens, extracting insights from the big data thus generated can become frustrating.
However, it’s not the volume of data that is most relevant to parking operations but the quality of data. Many systems provide basic, unstructured information that doesn’t offer much insight. It is only with high-quality data that parking operators can improve operations.
Big data and parking
The real value of big data emerges when we compile data from all of a city’s garages, meters, parking spaces etc. and merge it with data from local events, weather patterns, and other customer activity. By analyzing this large amount of data, parking operators can glean insights into demand drivers and customer behaviour patterns. Such insights can then be used to refine services and pricing to improve the customer parking experience.
Improved revenue security and knowledge
Big data could improve the parking industry by enhancing revenue security and city-wide knowledge. It can allow parking operators to better understand how to maximize revenue and decrease operating expenses by:
- Identifying revenue variances that may indicate revenue leakage
- Generating predictive analytics based on historical data set to identify utilization patterns that allow effective advertisement of available spaces, optimized staffing, demand-responsive pricing, and effectively forecasting revenues
Parking operators will also be able to better understand how pricing and special events affect occupancy in a region. They will also be able to quickly respond to increased utilization. For example, growing utilization at one space could translate into increased rates at nearby lots.
Some of this data may currently be monitored by parking managers but effective monitoring requires a high investment in terms of time, which isn’t possible for most managers. Instead, big data analytics can be employed to seamlessly collect this data and automatically analyse it. The systems can be programmed to alert operators in the event of potential issues and opportunities.
The more data smart parking systems gather, the better the insights they provide. Already, huge amounts of data are being collected every day. Parking operators need to stop merely storing it and start turning it into usable business intelligence for making superior decisions. Operators can start by evaluating the data they currently possess and how they can leverage data analytics to learn more about their customers in a bid to achieve operational excellence.