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Driving in and out of a parking garage should be easy. But sometimes it can lead to frustrating, even embarrassing, problems. For example, on a trip to England, just as I inserted the exit token into the machine, my car stalled. The lift gate closed and one of our passengers had to run to reception two floors up for another token.
I really could have used a smart parking system that day. And I am far from alone. Most drivers have experienced frustration with parking systems. A common issue is having to wait behind several cars while parking attendants collect tolls or check authorized vehicle lists. Solutions such as self-serve kiosks and RFID-based systems can help move vehicles along, but delays like the one I experienced are still common.
“The building that I live in actually uses an RFID-based solution for managing parking access and entry,” says Alhamade Abelgadir, Chief Product Officer at Dubai-based Disrupt-X, a global IoT solutions company. “Sometimes the card doesn’t read easily, so I have to open the window or step out of the car.” Then there are those times when drivers lose their RFID cards, and must get new ones.
Disrupt-X has developed a smart parking solution on its platform called Cognitive Neurons. It incorporates ANPR (automatic number-plate recognition) technology that uses computer vision and AI algorithms to identify vehicles entering and leaving parking areas.
Cameras positioned at entrances and exits read each car’s plate number, which is checked against a database of authorized vehicles, and then opens the gate. The process takes just a second or two. It’s far more efficient than having guards with clipboards checking every car. Or RFID sensors, as Abelgadir well knows.
The Disrupt-X platform provides a full stack of #IoT solutions, with the Cognitive Neurons application being just one of many. @disruptxio via @insightdottech
Smart Parking IoT Platform in Action
The Disrupt-X platform provides a full stack of IoT solutions, with the Cognitive Neurons application being just one of many.
“Most IoT platforms focus on application enablement,” Abelgadir says. “When enterprises procure the platform, they’re still required to make investments to build the use cases on top of that. So there’s a lot of added costs.” Disrupt-X is different. Applications are built in, and customers can activate them one at a time. This keeps costs down.
“We don’t charge our customers for the applications that are there, but rather for the those they use, or for the devices that they connect to that platform. In essence, we’re actually building what you could say is a hyperscaler for IoT solutions,” Abelgadir says.
ANPR was a priority because it fills an acute need in Dubai and neighboring cities. A combination of high temperatures, traffic congestion, and space constraints create parking challenges.
“Dubai itself is a pretty packed city, so there’s not a lot of land area,” Abelgadir says. Many buildings have internal parking, either underground or in upper levels. Manual parking systems are inefficient and pose security challenges. Logs that keep track of vehicle comings and goings are prone to human error, and guards sometimes wave unauthorized vehicles through for expediency.
Cognitive Neurons’ cameras capture the license plate number of every vehicle that goes in and out. It prevents tailgating—sticking so close to the vehicle in front to evade detection. Even if a car gets through, the system won’t allow it to exit because it’s not on the white list. That would actually raise an alarm to security.
To protect the privacy of residents, Abelgadir says, Disrupt-X minimizes the amount of personal identifiable information (PII) collected by the platform, segregating it from the other data it processes.
Another cost-conscious practice involves developing many of the solution elements in-house and making the platform as efficient as possible. For example, a single compact Intel-based server deployed on-site runs 8 to 10 cameras for the ANPR.
A Growing List of IoT Use Cases
Besides Cognitive Neurons’ Smart ANPR application, Disrupt-X also provides plenty of smart building and smart city functionality, such as environmental quality monitoring and predictive machine maintenance, water leak detection, asset tracking, telematics, parking occupancy tracking, and manhole cover monitoring.
“We’re continuously adding to our portfolio. We even have very funny use cases, like rodent monitoring. We use sensors to actually identify where you can have rodent infestation within the building,” Abelgadir says.
When customers invest in the platform, they can access any of the available applications, he says, adding, “To leverage those use cases, they need to connect hardware or devices to it to start receiving the data. That’s when they start actually seeing the use case itself.”
Disrupt-X aims to strike a balance between utility and affordability. Abelgadir says that similar solutions might cost four to five times more. “Whatever you’re paying for should make sense, and you should be getting a return out of it,” he says.
In Dubai and the surrounding region, he says, customers need to see a technology’s value before greenlighting it: “That’s why for us, we focus a lot on cost and the value it delivers.” Keeping costs down also means easing adoption for the masses, additionally simplifying the user experience minimizes training and allows users to complete tasks with two or three clicks.
Intel is a key partner, Abelgadir says: “They provide a great suite of technologies that enable us to develop our solutions.” This includes a hardware/software stack and the Intel® OpenVINO™ toolkit, which powers computer vision development and capabilities.
“In terms of the business perspective, working with Intel gives us a lot of exposure to their broader ecosystem of partners, customers, and resellers,” says Abelgadir.
That exposure should prove valuable as Disrupt-X develops more smart city and building applications. Going forward, technology will focus on efficient use of energy and other resources through data analytics and automation. The Disrupt-X platform will support these goals with a host of applications: telematics for fleet management, asset tracking, and other smart building solutions.