Belfast’s ‘Smart’ loading zones proving popular with drivers
3 Feb 2020
Belfast City Council’s latest ‘Smart Belfast’ pilot project, which aims to tackle urban transport delivery and parking challenges, is going from strength to strength.
The pilot, which involves using the novel PARKUNLOAD® app, or a smart parking button, is enabling drivers to easily ‘check in’ to smart loading zones and electric vehicle (EV) charge points. The digital platform helps manage loading zones and other restricted parking spaces, using IoT (Internet of Things) devices and mobile applications.
The PARKUNLOAD® app, which is currently being piloted at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust’s Musgrave Park and City Hospital sites has been welcomed by estate management, car park users and delivery drivers.
Using the app to identify parking slots and pre book space is improving use of space available, making deliveries more efficient and helping to prevent congestion. The average parking time at the EV spaces has been significantly reduced to just 2 hours, making it more freely available to other EV drivers.
Alderman Brian Kingston, Chair of the council’s Strategic and Policy Resources Committee took the opportunity to visit the trial site at Musgrave Park Hospital to see how PARKUNLOAD® works.
“It’s great to see companies responding to the challenges presented by our Smart Belfast programme which allow us to work creatively with SMEs to find innovative solutions to our city challenges,” he said.
“Like cities across the globe, Belfast is beginning to experience an increase in traffic and congestion as online shopping becomes more popular. We need to balance the needs of businesses and our residents while, at the same time, look after our environment.
“The wealth of innovation and lessons gained from this pilot present real opportunities to reduce congestion, improve air quality and make city centre deliveries safer. We’re delighted the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust is working with us on this pilot and it’s great that users of EV spaces and loading bays are taking part in the trial to create innovative solutions that can improve city life”.
PARKUNLOAD’s CEO Carles Sentís said: “We’re delighted to be taking forward this co-innovation with Belfast City Council and in collaboration with Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. This project has been great as it has helped us develop and showcase a smart parking button interface to make parking easier for drivers. The drivers of the Trust’s goods vehicle fleet are among the first in the world to trial this feature.”
This pilot project is part of the ‘Last Mile Delivery Challenge’ competition, a joint venture between Belfast City Council, Dublin City Council and Enterprise Ireland. The competition has made €230,000 SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research) available to find smart, low cost solutions to optimise goods and package deliveries in cities.
A number of SMEs applied to the SBRI competition and PARKUNLOAD® is one of 9 companies receiving funding to research and develop their proposed solution.
The trial at the Belfast Trust sites finishes at the end of February 2020 and EV parking users are encouraged to take part. Lessons from the pilot will help shape citywide policy. At the same time, the solutions designed by the companies could appeal to markets worldwide.
The other successful companies taking part in the competition are:
• Grid Smarter Cities - using KERB, a real-time, intelligent kerbside management solution
• Passel - first crowdsourced home delivery company
• Fernhay and UPS - working together on a solution that will dispatch e-bike and on-foot deliveries
• WeDispatch - using electric vehicles and consolidated deliveries to reduce freight traffic and its environmental impact on city centres
For more information on the Last Mile Delivery Challenge and Smart Belfast, visit www.smartbelfast.city