Using Pebble to Make Parking Smarter

Katie Sheehan – kes2221

Problem (Transportation):

Parking in urban areas is truly the tale of two cities – in one neighborhood there could be vast surface lots that sit empty, and in another there could be a line of running cars circling the same block to try and find a spot. Cities are planned using antiquated zoning rules which often nowadays have too many parking requirements, while at the same time in cities like New York drivers can spend a long time trying to find parking without real-time data on spot availability – as we don’t currently have an EV-dominated vehicle market adding traffic and idling cars to city streets increases localized emissions which can worsen health outcomes in communities nearby.

Solution: Easy-to-Install Parking Sensors (Pebble)

Sidewalk Labs has just released yet another smart city tech solution, a self-adhesive parking sensor that is placed directly onto any parking surface called Pebble. Pebble is a low-power, long-lasting sensor and nearby solar-powered cellular network gateway that can help parking operators monitor real-time parking availability, and inform trend-based decisions such as parking pricing in order to reduce congestion and idling. If interfaced with an app it could allow individual drivers to get to available spots in the area more efficiently, or provide real-time or forecasted data prior to departure so users may forego driving or carpool. It can also be useful to city planners when determining new zoning parking requirements in certain neighborhoods, allowing for optimized land use. While parking sensors are not new, they are typically installed as an entire system within parking garages – this can be expensive and would not be used in curbside city parking, for example. Pebble can be scaled up or down on the number of sensors/system size, allowing for easy installation and customization – add a parking spot, stick a new sensor on the pavement on top of it.


Parking Owners – Cities and Private Operators

Parking owners such as private lot holders and even municipalities could use this scalable technology in their lots or on a street’s curbside parking, allowing for monitoring of real-time parking usage data, as well as trended or forecasted future usage. This can let spot owners develop more informed price yielding strategies based on cycles of demand, and have more up to-date management of their lots.


If Pebble’s real-time and forecasting data can be interfaced with an app such as Google Maps (Sidewalk Labs is a subsidiary of Alphabet), drivers would be able to find available spots more quickly – thus reducing idling time and street congestion. They could even use real-time and forecasted parking trends to plan their trips ahead of time, potentially forgoing the use of an individual car and opting for public transportation options instead if available parking is scarce or too expensive.

City Planning Departments:

City planners could use data trends to inform city-wide pricing strategies, the addition or subtraction of available spaces (either temporarily as in NYC’s Open Streets or permanently through the addition of bus/bike lanes, for example), and even zoning parking requirements in residential neighborhoods.


Pebble has already been piloted with parking operators and within individual neighborhoods, but in order to get those key benefits for drivers and city planning departments Sidewalk Labs should partner with a city to test pilot a larger “smart parking zone” using Pebble, and create a pilot app for drivers to use Pebble in real time (or integrate the localized data with Google Maps). This would give the partnered city the opportunity to evaluate its current parking more holistically, while also being able to measure reductions in “parking traffic” and idling which impacts localized emissions.



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