Digital car park signs optimise large outdoor spaces that otherwise often go to waste.
Driving is the nation’s favourite method of transport. In the UK in 2016, there were 31.7 million cars on the road and this steadily increases every year. This makes parking more and more problematic.
Despite this, parking has seen little innovation since the advent of the multi-story. Digital car park signs are a long-overdue advancement.
Real time space availability and traffic flow optimisation
Most large multi-stories nowadays use digital counters to display the number of spaces available in a car park. This is an important concept but the technology remains under-deployed and under-developed. While these primitive digital car park signs inform drivers how many spaces are available, they fail to indicate where these spaces are. Furthermore, being told there are 50 spaces currently free is of limited use without the context of the car park’s overall size, and how many other cars are ahead of you looking for a space.
More sophisticated digital car park signs merge with wayfinding technology to direct cars to available spaces. Even if spaces are evenly spread across a multi-story, entering cars can be guided to different levels in order to optimise traffic flow. To overcome the problem of entering a car park where you are told there are say 20 spaces free but, unknown to you, 30 other cars looking, a traffic light system might be deployed. Sensors recording cars entering and leaving a car park, together with data on parking trends throughout the day, can be used to give a more accurate representation of space availability.
Weather, traffic and transport information
Rather than just showing space availability, digital car park signs are starting to be used to provide other relevant information for car park users. A company car park, for example, might deploy digital signs to display weather and traffic reports to employees leaving work. Drivers returning to their cars will be able to check the conditions of their drive home on their way out of the car park. These warnings will be appreciated by employees and also help them use their lunch hours more efficiently too, avoiding returning late to the office due to unforeseen traffic.
In car parks located at airports or stations, transport information is another beneficial use of outdoor digital signage. Airport car parks in particular can be vast and remote with bus shuttle systems required to take travellers to their terminal. Digital car park signs can display timetables for these shuttle buses so that people know how long they need to wait.
Parking fee prices
A pet hate of many drivers is having to get out of their car to search for the nearest pay and display machine – only to check the fee and return to their car to hunt around for change. Digital car park signs, alongside space availability and transport information, can specify parking fee prices. Being able to check pricing as you enter a car park can save drivers, especially those in a hurry, this frustrating double trip to the pay machine.
An invaluable application of digital car park signs (that local councils would do well to get behind) is cautionary messaging. Using these displays as billboards to prompt drivers with messages like ‘Don’t drink and drive’ or ‘Have you locked your car?’ has a positive effect on lowering crime. The former denouncement is enhanced by digital signage’s capability to display video. The most effective anti-drink driving campaigns are those that visually and emotionally show its consequences. Deploying the graphic videos you might see on TV to drivers leaving or returning to their cars before or after an evening out would greatly aid prevention. Likewise, emphasising through signage that a car park operates CCTV would go a long way to deter theft.
Prime location advertising
So far we have discussed the practical functions of deploying digital car park signs. But there remains to be explored a huge opportunity for the owners of these facilities and that’s digital out of home advertising (DOOH). This sector is exploding. The sheer size of car parks, coupled with their strategic locations and concentrations of people, makes advertising on digital signage screens lucrative.
Car parks connected to shops, shopping centres or leisure complexes could use digital boards to advertise current offers and deals. Digital car park signs in a supermarket car park, for example, can be sponsored by the supermarket itself to promote particular products. The car park of a shopping centre might run featured ads on its displays encouraging users to visit lesser known stores inside.
Taking advertising in this environment one step further, retailers might use digital car park signs as part of a special promotion to users of that car park. Drivers might be encouraged to park in a particular location through offers like 20% off an adjacent restaurant or local cinema tickets. These deals could be operated using the parking display tickets themselves as vouchers that can be torn off.
The possibilities of DOOH advertising are endless and make installing digital displays in car parks, especially when coupled with their practical functions, a huge opportunity. Digital car park signs that double up as advertising boards become sources of revenue for car park owners.
With this in mind, local councils – keen to generate local business, regulate traffic and display cautionary messages – should consider investing in this innovative platform.