ParkWise helps Boston drivers find empty parking spots

ParkWise is hoping to tackle Boston's parking problems. Photo via Flickr user linden moe.
ParkWise is hoping to tackle Boston's parking problems. Photo via Flickr user linden moe.

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ParkWise

There never seem to be enough parking spaces on Boston’s crowded streets, but a local company is teaming up with an Israeli firm to help drivers hunt them down.

Anagog Ltd.,  of Tel Aviv, uses the location trackers in thousands of smartphones to identify empty parking spots, much the way Google Maps reports on traffic conditions by using GPS to track the speed of smartphones traveling on the same road.

Anagog’s software can tell when a phone is moving at driving speed, when it’s slowed to a walking pace or stopped altogether. When a phone goes from 40 miles per hour down to a dead stop, then starts moving at 5 miles an hour, the software infers that the user was in a car, parked, and got out.

The place where the rapid motion stopped is now identified as a parking space. When the driver returns to his car and pulls away, the increased speed indicates the car has left its space, which is now available to others.

“It is not foolproof, but it certainly gives a level of visibility that is not available today,” said Jake Levant, Anagog’s chief marketing officer.

Anagog’s technology has been embedded into ParkWise, a free parking app developed by StreetInfoTech LLC of Boston, and the companies are currently testing the service in the North End.

“We’re going neighborhood by neighborhood,” said Alex Shvartz, StreetInfoTech chief executive. “We hope we can release the entire Boston area by the end of this year.”

ParkWise is currently available only for Android phones; an iOS version for iPhones is under development.

In Israel, Anagog has already deployed its system in conjunction with Pango, a company that lets people pay for street parking through their smartphones. Pango’s parking service is available in parts of Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York and Arizona, but not yet in Boston.

Meanwhile ParkWise offers little information on open parking spaces in Boston because few people are using it. The Anagog technology works better as more people install ParkWise, Pango or other compatible apps on their phones. Levant said that his system should work even if as few as 2 percent of Boston drivers install compatible apps on their phones.

Anagog also collects parking data from thousands of phones to generate a statistical profile of street parking conditions, to provide drivers with information about the relative availability in a given location. For instance, it could show that on a Friday at 2 p.m., he’ll have better luck looking for a space two blocks west of his present location.

Anagog’s service is free to consumers. Shvartz said that he plans to sell a premium version of ParkWise with extra features, such as automatic notification that a parking space must be vacated for street sweeping or snow removal. When his company generates revenue, he’ll pay a portion of it to Anagog.

Levant doesn’t expect Anagog to run into the problems that Haystack, a Baltimore-based company that let drivers sell access to their street parking spaces, hit in Boston. In August the City Council passed an ordinance banning this practice, saying that Haystack had no right to buy or sell access to public property.

A spokeswoman for the Walsh administration said ParkWise doesn’t appear to run afoul of city regulations.

Hiawatha Bray is a technology reporter for the Boston Globe. E-mail him at h_bray@globe.com.
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