While there will be no parking spaces added this semester, Auburn University Parking Services believes it will be much easier to find a spot despite having the same number of spaces as last semester. Starting this spring, parking services is launching the War Eagle Park app. Director of Parking Services Don Andrae described it best when he said, “It is a wayfinding [app] for determining where parking is available.”
This project is a huge undertaking for any one department, which is why parking services hired an outside engineering group to create the app. Focus Engineering was the company chosen to undertake this massive project. They are a company based in Auburn and this particular project was run by two Auburn graduates Sakthi Kandaswaamy and Parker Roan.
The process for creating this app began about three years ago when parking services began plans for what they would like the app to include. Then the process of selecting a group to make such an app began.
“There are a lot of schools and, of course, cities that have apps like this now, that tell you where parking is available. So we started two and a half years ago looking at what we want- ed to do and we were approached by the Focus Engineering group as well as other groups about them doing a system for us,” said Andrae. “So we had them do a pilot project, to make sure their products worked, and then we went out for bid and both of them [the two piloted projects], as well as several other outside entities-
ties, and based on the price and what we had seen in the poultry science lot [where they piloted their project], we selected Fopark [the app presented by Focus Engineering].”
Many parking apps today that show parking availability use ground sensors powered by batteries to determine if a space is occupied, Focus Engineering’s app Fopark, called War Eagle Park for Auburn’s campus, functions completely different Roan said, “We put cameras up in the light bulbs and so they look at the parking spaces and then we use computer vision and machine learning to determine the occupancy of those spaces that the cameras see.”
The technology behind the app designed by Focus Engineering is unlike any other parking availability app available for other college campuses and cities around the globe because of its unique use of cameras. It is because of these special cameras that Andrae and his team at parking services selected Focus Engineering to create a Fopark app specifically for Auburn entitled War Eagle Park.
“The reason we did [selected Fopark] was because of the fact they used cameras. Most of the other technology at that time, two years ago, was using the sensors in the ground,” Andrae said. “Which of course then if your parking lot became a building tomorrow, you lost the sensor. And they were run by batteries, that usually went dead after a certain period of time and you had to dig them up and put another one in.”
While the technology Focus Engineering uses can be used anywhere in the world, they have custom designed technology for Auburn communication specialist for auxiliary services
Kelsey Prather said, “They’re going to do it specifically for Auburn, and it’s [the app] going to be known as War Eagle parking.”
The app is designed for users to input the type of parking they have, such as A zone or PC1, and then the app will tell them all the parking lots on campus they may park in and give a percentage based on how many occupied spaces there are in a lot compared to the total number of spaces. Then the user can select a parking lot to see which exact spaces are occupied and which are not.
The zone input feature will help students to determine which lots they can use, and can also help direct students to easily forgotten or lots they never even knew about Roan said, “So that they [students] don’t have to memorize all of the lots with their zone in Auburn. The app can memorize it for them, all they have to know are the buildings on their schedule and type that in”
The former students from Focus Engineering think this will be a great time saver for students Roan said, “I had a few instances where this could have really helped me when I was in a hurry. I had time to get the building but I didn’t have time to park. And if I had this app to say there’s a parking lot that is 70 percent full that’s only .2 miles away from the building. I could have much better spent my time walking to class, that five-minute walk, as opposed to driving around looking for a parking spot that wasn’t there [in a closer lot].
Meanwhile, the app will be just as effective for faculty Prather said, “We actually had set it up about a year ago, the proprietary equipment and everything, in the poultry science parking
lot. We tested it in that environment because it was a smaller parking lot and it was just faculty and staff, and they have loved it. It is just A and B parking [zones] over there so it’s not as challenging as a massive parking lot.”
“The feedback we have seen from the faculty and staff, they love it and we are clearly excited to roll out to the student body as well. This is something that we’ve heard complaints about at Camp War Eagle, SOS and from upper classman,” Prather said. “Surprisingly, this the first and new kind of technology on a college campus. We’ve done research to see what other larger institutions have and not many schools have something like this for their students.”
The final feature of the app is the incorporation of other apps already available to students. Once students select a lot, they will be able to see additional transportation information Andrae said, “We tied it [the app] in with our Tiger Transit and War Eagle Bike Share so that once you get to that lot, you’ll be able to say I’m still probably a little bit further from campus so when is the next bus coming by, it will tell you that, and where does the bus pick me up. Or I don’t mind riding a bike, how many bikes are available nearby and how do I get to where the bikes are.”
This parking spot availability feature will only be available for the Coliseum, Village West, Magnolia/Donahue, Lowder, Poultry Science (front and back) and the McWhorter lots at the launch of the app.
Andrae and his team hope to have the Arena, Stadium Deck and the West 1&2 off of Thach lots ready to show spot availability by the end of 2018.