By Elton Gomes
An Indian student studying in the US has developed a space-detecting algorithm that can help tackle the problem of finding a parking spot by using big data analytics.
Sai Nikhil Reddy Mettupally, a graduate student in computer science at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), has won second prize at the 2018 Science and Technology Open House competition for his creation.
According to an official statement, Mettupally’s creation relies on big data analytics and deep-learning techniques wherein drivers can be led directly to an empty parking spot.
How was the idea conceived?
Mettupally came up with the idea shortly after the university transitioned to zone parking last fall.
“The data show that, on a typical day, there is a high chance that students or faculty members will have difficulty getting a parking spot between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., leading to the wastage of time and fuel, and adding to the pollution of the environment,” Mettupally said, according to Communications of the ACM, an online publication for the computing and information technology fields. “Hence, finding a parking spot as soon as a person enters the parking lot is essential.”
Testing the idea
Mettupally realized that he needed to identify empty spaces and then direct the driver to the location. However, unlike other parking apps, he wanted to develop one that did not rely on the purchase, installation, and maintenance of expensive in-ground sensors. Mettupally instead wanted to employ a convolutional neural network. This network would be capable of analyzing and classifying images that would be collected via a surveillance camera to detect whether or not a given parking spot is empty.
To take his idea to the next level, Mettupally turned to Vineetha Menon, an assistant professor of computer science. Menon is also the director of UAH’s Big Data Analytics Lab.
Menon had access to the high-performance computing power that Mettupally needed to create and train his machine-learning model. The model relied on a robust parking-lot data set that was provided by the Federal University of Paraná in Brazil.
“The goal of the Big Data Analytics Lab is to establish Big Data Analytics and Data Science as mainstream research areas of the university, so it can accommodate the high computational and memory demands of Big Data generation and processing,” Menon said, PTI reported.
A mobile app in store?
Mettupally hopes to develop a parking-support mobile app, tentatively named InstaPark. The app will display the real-time grid layout of empty and occupied parking spots using the phone’s GPS.
“The app could then be constantly updated based on parking information from the cloud classifier,”Mettupally said. “This would assist both UAH students and employees in managing their time efficiently in finding their closest parking spot, help ease the traffic flow on campus, and provide better parking management services,” Communications of the ACM reported.
Parking woes in India
Finding a parking spot in India is turning into a nightmare for several commuters. Although solutions have been proposed, ineffective implementation of solutions and inadequate regulation has made parking a chronic problem.
One of the most popular solutions across the world is charging people for parking. This could result in major roads being de-cluttered and it could encourage people to travel by public transport at least during the peak hours.
It remains to be seen whether we can find a feasible solution to our parking woes, but Mettupally’s space-detecting algorithm could pave the way for reducing parking problems.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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