THE irony of trialling Smart City car parking technology in the 252-space Lee Wharf carpark – set to be swallowed up in the name of development – is not lost on Heath Raftery.
Nonetheless Mr Raftery says the data being gathered at Lee Wharf by Foresight Parking, which uses technology that allows drivers to check parking availability before they arrive on site, is invaluable for both drivers and planning authorities.
“Rather than making planning decisions on anecdotes, forecasts and guesses, council and other organisations can make them on data, right now,” says Mr Raftery.
Earlier this year city workers expressed outrage at news the 252 car parks across 7300 square metres at 21 Honeysuckle Drive at Lee Wharf has been earmarked for an apartment and retail development by Canberra’s Doma Group.
Mr Raftery is a co-founder of tech start-up NewieVentures, which developed the Foresight Parking app that allows drivers to find available car parking in the city.
NewieVentures tested the technology successfully at the University of Newcastle’s Callaghan campus and at a council carpark in Mayfield before it set up its sensors at Lee Wharf a few months ago.
“It’s a prominent site and a talking point for traffic issues in the CBD because car parks are disappearing to make way for developments,” says Mr Raftery.
He is urging city residents to use the parking app and provide feedback.
“There is interest from drivers looking for carparks, from organisations like council and Hunter Development Corporation, who want to understand demand for carparks and understand utilisation rates and how they change over time and turnover, the kind of traffic that is in and out,” he said.
Mr Raftery said council had reiterated there were plenty of carparks in the city but people didn’t know where they were, but now they had the means to highlight the evidence.
“We want to shine a torch on it and say if and where they are available,” he said.
“Our approach is very low maintenance and low cost and we can generate the data across large areas quickly. “We can’t get the message across by talking about it so we are doing at Honeysuckle and hoping [authorities] take notice.”
A Newcastle City Council spokesman said Newie Ventures was a great example of a local start-up identifying a business opportunity utilising the internet of things and deploying pilots in the CBD to prove and develop their product: “This directly aligns with our smart city strategy to support prototype technologies and create business opportunities,” he said.
To get the Foresight Parking app see bestpark.com.au.