Over the years, we have seen many applications for our technology, showing us and our customers just how versatile our solar powered ITS equipment can be.
One of the biggest areas we have seen our technology thrive is in parking applications, serving messaging and security requirements. During the COVID pandemic, car parks all over the UK were thrown into confusion with retail and business closures – some more than temporary. Local authorities were also charged with spreading important COVID-related messaging, often using central car parks as a point to disseminate this information. Our solutions were on hand to assist a wide range of organisations with the chaos, brining increased safety and clarity to the situation, helping to keep Britain moving.
Now we are over the worst of the immediate disruption that COVID caused, our solutions are still being used in car parks across the nation to help ease common problems that car parks experience even in a post-pandemic economy.
One of the biggest aspects in parking that our technology can assist with is in matters of wayfinding. Our solar powered, portable Variable Message Signs can help clear up confusion, directing drivers and pedestrians in situations where certain stores or areas of a car park may be closed. Such an application was vital during COVID when many stores were closed. In a post-pandemic Britain, wayfinding for parking applications is essential to sign post any stores that may have closed permanently or for any construction projects that change the flow of traffic.
Middlebrook Retail Park in Bolton is a great example of how well our signs can be applied to this application. During COVID, Middlebrook Retail Park used our VMS-A signs to help direct drivers to the right area in response to many stores closing, helping to control the flow of traffic and deliver drivers to the correct location within the car park for the store they were after.
Robert Hallworth, Centre Director for The Emerson Group, who manage Middlebrook Retail Park commented, “I have been using MVIS signs for 5 years now and they really help communicate quickly with a large number of shoppers coming to site. During the pandemic they have been invaluable to get messages to the public. […] support at MVIS is excellent and their in-house team can change signs in seconds when needed, making them a highly effective tool in high traffic situations. We deal with over 100,000 cars a week and have a football stadium on site.”
They may also help with directing people to the correct areas in very large car parks, such as the ones seen at conference centres, at arenas or stadium venues for example. A crowd control application like this is also commonly used at festivals and large events, helping to direct the behaviour of many people using a clear and easy to update source of information.
For car parks with limited space however, we even offer a portable VMS with a smaller footprint than the VMS-A. The HD Compact is our smallest VMS, yet despite its small size, it packs a huge amount of functionality, featuring a dual colour display, solar power base and integrated data collection radar.
In some cases, it may be important for a venue or business to communicate messaging quickly before the visitor enters the building, making the car park a key point to spread this information. Locations such as hospitals, schools or retail stores may have specific or changing instructions to visitors that they must follow before they can be permitted entry into the building, which was a requirement we saw heavily during the COVID lockdowns. Using our signs, site managers can display this information easily and clearly, allowing for a change in messaging quickly should the situation change.
A good example of this use is with Barnsley Council, who used 2x VMS-A signs during late 2020 in a central car park to help communicate important COVID messaging to people before they visited Barnsley town centre.
A representative of Barnsley Council from the Events and Programme department commented on the signs, “They really helped get the COVID message across to the public, we had good feedback.” Having been given access to our Bartco Live mobile app to change the content on the signs, they also mentioned, “The app is great! So easy to update the sign in near real time, and everything is customisable and fool proof.”
Another good example of this was New Leaf Plant Centre’s use of a VMS-A. As one of the leading specialist plant centres in the UK, New Leaf Plant Centre has always been a hot spot for local horticulture and gardening enthusiasts. Remaining open when many retail stores were closed placed even more pressure on New Leaf and its staff, requiring emergency messaging to help manage customers and their expectations before they even entered the store. With a VMS-A located in their car park, customers were informed about New Leaf’s COVID policies before they got to the main entrance, clearing up any confusion right away.
Phil Spencer, General Manager at New Leaf Plant Centre commented, “The unit was delivered promptly and set up quickly and efficiently by George with our message pre-loaded by the office and requires no maintenance by ourselves. It even switches on and off on its own. The unit delivers a crisp, clear and concise message to customers which is highly visible and easy to read, it cannot be missed. The unit has been key in delivering our core messages. […] The unit and support from MVIS have been invaluable to our re-opening and has clearly reinforced our commitment to the Health & Safety of our staff and customers. It has given reassurance to all that they are dealing with a professional and caring company.”
Our signs can also be applied to a wider application for parking. In some cases, having adequate parking can make a huge difference in a town or city centre when it comes to traffic congestion. Many town and city centres offer a ‘Park and Ride’ system that allows visitors to park their vehicle outside of the city and use public transport to then travel into the centre, reducing traffic and pollution.
However, one of the biggest challenges local authorities have regarding this kind of parking is promotion, that is, making drivers aware of the provision to encourage them to use the Park and Ride service.
Using our signs deployed in key locations, local authorities can raise awareness of Park and Ride services, as well as other newly developed parking provisions.
An ideal example of this can be found with Oxfordshire County Council, who in late 2020 used 8x VMS-A units to help combat congestion in the city centre.
Signs were strategically deployed throughout the city on main roads leading into the centre to give maximum exposure to the message that they wanted drivers entering Oxford to use the Park and Ride rather than drive around the city in a vehicle.
In feedback to us, an Oxfordshire County Council Traffic Systems Technical Officer commented that the signs were “really clear and consistent” and that they were “really happy with everything and would not hesitate to use again”.
Regarding our customer service, the Technical Officer added that it was, “brilliant, the whole team were very reactive and helpful,” and when it came to using our proprietary Web Studio to change the messages on the signs, she reported that it was “super easy to use” and “so much better than the system we have for our fixed signs.” She added, “The team were excellent when we needed signs moving or anything changing.”
Likewise, our signs were used in preparation for one of the oldest agricultural shows in the UK, the Bakewell Show for the same reason. Janet Bailey, Bakewell Show Manager said, “MVIS provided us with an excellent solution for both our traffic management and promotional needs for the show. The signs placed on the major access routes advertising the Park and Ride scheme were a tremendous success. Our Park and Ride operating company noticed a significant increase in customers using the scheme compared to previous years.” Janet added, “Feedback from the general public and the police was very positive with many comments on the visual impact of the colour graphics and text messages.”
Charities have even used our signs in car parks to help promote fundraisers to local audiences. Ashgate Hospice, for example, use a VMS-A deployed in a local supermarket car park to help raise awareness of their upcoming events to get maximum visibility.
It’s not just our signs that can be used for parking applications.
Our Solar IP is a highly versatile product that can be used to grant power to other technologies that are traditionally fixed or require mains power. One such technology is ANPR, which, in partnership with parking companies or ANPR suppliers, helps to enforce parking restrictions at car parks all over the country.
Horizon Parking, for example use our Solar IPs to grant portability to their ANPR units. Whilst Horizon would ordinarily utilise fixed ANPR units, there are some car parks and locations that can’t facilitate fixed power solutions. Horizon’s Solar IPs allow them to supply such locations with their usual ANPR parking provision without having to invest in new or different ANPR cameras.
ANPR technology in a parking application can help to monitor drivers to ensure that they aren’t breaking stated restrictions, such as return frequency, unauthorised parking in forbidden areas, keeping necessary parking spaces clear or length of a driver’s stay, making it essential for parking companies.
It can also be used to collect data, giving site managers the ability to identify periods of high demand, helping analysts better manage future traffic requirements. Allowing you to collect data such as vehicle quantities or arrival times gives operations coordinators the opportunity to learn about visitors in a way that can help preparation and planning. This could be a highly important function for car parks that face high demand, such as airport car parks, or provide a wider service function, as car wash car parks do.
Operating automatically, this highly portable solution could even auto-detect vehicles as they pass through the field of view, or it can be linked to an external trigger for weigh in motion capture or other applications where only specific vehicles are required to be detected.
Our Solar IP can also be integrated with CCTV, which offers car parks increased security. Our Solar Powered Low Light CCTV solution, when deployed in a car park, can allow site managers to record and respond to situations as they occur. The visible presence of CCTV is well known to influence behaviour and help enforce rules.
Having that extra level of security adds increased protection for drivers using a car park with CCTV, which could even be offered as a premium feature, helping to ease the sting of charging for its use. Indeed, some drivers may even be happy to pay for parking if they know that their vehicle is under surveillance.
For car parks with limited space, we have recently developed the ‘Compact CCTV’ unit, which utilises our ‘Compact’ solar base to power a wire-free CCTV camera that boasts an ultra-wide viewing angle of 355° pan & 140° tilt and connects through Vodafone 4G. This unit is ideal for smaller car parks or those with a limited budget, offering a low-cost smaller solution that, with its 3m high mast, can monitor car park security effectively.
We have also recently developed a portable VMS with integrated CCTV. The Portable CCTV VMS Solution discreetly integrates a CCTV camera with our VMS-A, allowing you to have eyes on the ground without having to be physically present on-site, creating a surveillance and feedback solution that can be used to monitor driver and pedestrian behaviour without having to be on-site.
One of the advantages of our products is their sheer versatility in terms of applications. In many ways, every deployment we manage is a unique project with its own requirements and demands. Here at MVIS, we see this as an important part of our service, giving us the opportunity to provide our customers with the perfect solution for a given issue.
Especially in recent years, we have seen very interesting applications of our products that have helped to address needs arising out of the wider complications of COVID. A good example of this was the car park-based ‘Click and Collect’ solution developed in response to the juxtaposition of overwhelming demand and social distancing during the pandemic.
The Click and Collect system utilises one of our VMS-A units as a ‘call up’ display that could, for example, display an order number when the order is ready for collection. This solution made social distancing easier during the pandemic and could help to reduce congestion and bottlenecks in retail store car parks.
In a similar fashion, the same technology can be applied to a doctor’s surgery or hospital car parks for vaccine or appointment call ups as an alternative to all patients waiting in a waiting room. Those patients with vehicles are then able to sit in their car and wait for the VMS-A to display a message calling them up, keeping the risk of infection to a minimum.
Another innovative use of our products for car parking is queue management. In traditional traffic management applications, our signs can be used to to inform drivers of journey time information, which we know helps to calm traffic during times of congestion. Providing journey time information gives drivers a chance to change their route if needed as well as providing estimated wait times for those who may be stuck in traffic.
Applying this function to car parks, it is possible for our signs to display estimated wait times into a car park during busy periods, which could be highly useful for events that start at a particular time and see many visitors arriving around the same time. Using our signs to inform those waiting to enter a busy car park on estimated waiting times may encourage drivers to use another car park or help to keep things calm during the waiting when people may be anxious about missing the start of the event.
For more information about our solutions or if you would like to know more about how you can use our products to help with parking, please contact us via our contact form.
Alternatively, you can email us via firstname.lastname@example.org.