06 Sep 2018

IoT solution alleviates urban traffic

Q-Free and Silicon Labs have announced a collaboration on a new outdoor parking IoT sensor solution that makes it faster and easier for automotive drivers in urban areas to locate open parking spots.

The companies have worked together to create Q-Free’s ParQSense Smart Parking Sensor, which uses the Silicon Labs’ Wonder Gecko wireless microcontroller (MCU) for control and Sub-GHz connectivity. The Q-Free solution was deployed as a pilot this year in the EU (UK, Netherlands, Sweden and Norway) and North America, and will be released for commercial use on Sept. 17.

“The Q-Free ParQSense Smart Parking Sensor is a great example of how IoT ingenuity can improve our lives and the overall urban experience,” said Dennis Natale, Vice President and General Manager of IoT Products at Silicon Labs. “As the demand for smart city solutions accelerates, IoT innovators like Q-Free are choosing Silicon Labs’ low-power wireless connectivity technologies for their solutions.”

With more than 30 years in the intelligent transportation market, Q-Free has focused its resources on developing ways to reduce traffic flows. Q-Free provides a wide range of transportation technologies including electronic tolling, vehicle counters, surveillance technologies and parking management solutions. The ParQSense Smart Parking Sensor is one of the company’s first sensor products to support outdoor parking needs. According to an INRIX study, 20 percent of traffic in urban areas can be attributed to drivers searching for parking spots.

“To develop an IoT sensor solution for outdoor parking that would succeed in today’s market, we had to deliver a combination of low-power, long-range wireless connectivity and high performance,” said Brage Blekken, a project manager in Q-Free’s R&D department. “Silicon Labs helped us overcome this challenge by providing best-in-class wireless technology capable of transmitting data over long distances in the sub-GHz band. The EZR32WG Wonder Gecko wireless MCU was the perfect fit for our application needs.”

Many existing outdoor parking sensors on the market prior to the Q-Free solution had accuracy limitations, and struggled with wireless capabilities and interference from cellular networks commonly associated with urban environments. The Q-Free ParQSense solution uses dual radar and magnetic field technology to sense with 99+ percent accuracy whether a vehicle is present in a parking space. The application transmits data to centralized base stations over ultra-long distances using narrowband sub-GHz wireless connectivity.

During the product development phase, Q-Free recognized low-power wireless connectivity would be crucial in ensuring the viability of the solution. The primary product design obstacle was offering a combination of high accuracy components with extreme low power consumption, a challenge Silicon Labs routinely solves for customers.

The Q-Free ParQSense Smart Parking Sensor product line will be available for commercial release Sept. 17, 2018.

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