Washington, July 27 : People in San Francisco may soon be able to find parking space via their laptops and mobile phones, thanks to a network of wireless sensors to be embedded in the streets.
The sensors from the company Streetline can detect when a car parks in the spot beside it, and monitor passing traffic.
About 6,000 wireless sensors will be fixed alongside many parking spots, which will then monitor both parking availability and the volume and speed of passing traffic.
The city hopes that displaying information from the sensors on Web maps, smart phones, and signs on the street may reduce the traffic and pollution caused by circling cars.
Jim Reich, the vice president of engineering at Streetline. Magnetic sensors detect when a large metal object locally disrupts Earth's magnetic field.
He points out that one challenge with magnetic sensors is avoiding false positives.
"We rely on the magnetometer the most, but in order to fix errors, we use other types of sensors (that) give you much higher reliability," TechnologyReview.com quoted him as saying.
He insists that the Streetline system has a high 90 per cent accuracy in recognizing parked cars.
The Streetline sensors use Dust Networks' SmartMesh system, a spinoff of the Smart Dust project at the University of California, Berkeley, to relay information.
Dust Networks CEO Joy Weiss says that SmartMesh networks are more than 99.99 per cent reliable, and that two technologies together gives the nodes an average lifespan of 10 years on only two AA batteries.
"We were really the first ones able to build an entire network where every node in the network is able to run on batteries for years, and at the same time deliver very high reliability. In most (other networks), these are a trade-off," says Weiss.
Since the sensors in Streetline's monitoring system do not have any wires, its installation will be cheaper and easier than tearing up roads to put down cables.
"The vehicle sensors look like pavement reflectors, and cities can simply glue them down to the street and have a working system almost instantly," says Reich.
The researchers have plans to further develop the network to include noise, air and other kinds of detection sensors as well.
"We intend to do a nervous system for the city," says Reich.
He believes that information through this system will help people make better decisions, based on projections of "how much of their time is actually going to be wasted driving around."
He says that the system could suggest transit alternatives at the same time that it displays parking availability, and that it will eventually be able to predict whether parking spots will be available in a particular location by the time you get there.