Friday 9 January 2009

LBS to find parking space

Drivers in Westminster in London can now solve their parking problems by sending a text message.

Westminster City Council, which pioneered a satellite navigation system to help people find nearby public toilets, has adapted its technology to help visitors park in the area.

Drivers who text CARPARK to 80097 will get a text back within seconds giving them details of their nearest car parks, based on their current location.

The service uses satellites to locate the phone when the message is sent allowing it to return information accurate to less than one mile.

The technology directs users to the nearest two of the council's 14 car parks across Westminster.

Locals can also text to receive an instant message back with details of the location and phone number of their nearest leisure centre, swimming pool, library, youth club or children's centre.

The authority hopes the system will eventually be used nationwide.

The service costs 25p (plus standard network charge) per text sent to the 80097 number.

There seems to be some confusion about the technology being used but my assumption is that it is Location Based Service. This service was earlier also referred to as 'SatLav' (SatNav + Lavoratory: because it was initially used to locate nearest toilets :)

Earlier, Robert Thurner, Commercial Director of Incentivated, which created the technology to pin-point users and their nearest toilet by matching postcodes, said:

"By employing the latest mobile technology, councils like Westminster Council are helping to make residents' lives easier. Whether they want to pay the congestion charge via their mobile or use location based services to find their nearest recycling centres or licensed minicabs, mobile can offer an immediate solution, at any time and anywhere. We applaud Westminster Council for adding text-public conveniences to their list of services and look forward to working with them in the future."

In future it could be used for a lot more different purposes.

I am not totally convinced if this is a great idea, expecially for parking:
  • In UK, users are not allowed to use mobile while driving so how do they send the text message?
  • If you park temporarily on the road to send this text message then you can get parking fine or you may just block other users
  • You may send this text message while driving, in which case by the time you receive the response you have already travelled some distance.
  • Generally SMS responses are quick but in congested situation they can take time.
  • 25 pence + 10 pence network charge seems a lot to me if people are going to use this service regularly and its rolled out nationwide.
  • A simpler alternative it to get a SatNav (available from 50 pounds) and they have Parking as points of interest.
  • Google maps for mobile already uses LBS. Its just matter of time before they add this service and you can avail it free (or maybe pay some data charges if you are not on flat tariff).
Anyone seen this or similar services in action? Please give your opinion.

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