Surveillance Solutions Improve Campus Parking Beyond Security
- By Anthony Incorvati
- July 17, 2023
Campus environments come in many shapes and forms: universities, hospitals, corporate, military bases, or even airports—but they may all share common challenges when it comes to parking. Their facilities must provide safe and secure parking for staff, visitors, and their vehicles while striving to create a positive user experience. First impressions matter; no campus administrator wants drivers to start their visit feeling hurried and frustrated. Parking is also a revenue center, and campuses seek to optimize efficiencies and ensure proper collection of fees.
Addressing these various priorities is easier with the help of technology. The same infrastructure and AI-assisted systems that create a secure parking environment can also deliver operational efficiencies and a more convenient, frictionless driver experience.
Campus stakeholders will appreciate security integrators well-versed in how security systems can increase ROI by performing more than traditional security functions.
Parking areas attract nefarious actors, as they are primarily unmanned, offer many places to hide, and are often poorly lit and maintained. Drivers want to feel confident that their parked vehicles and their contents will be safe from theft and vandalism. They also want to feel safe walking to and from their cars.
Vehicle access control, assisted by high-quality video imaging and intercom systems, ensures that only authorized vehicles enter and exit a parking lot or garage. License plate recognition can trigger the gate to open for registered vehicles and track all arrivals and departures. Preauthorized visitors may use QR codes on their mobile devices to gain temporary parking privileges. All others can use the intercom system at the entry gate to speak with a remote officer for assistance.
Surveillance cameras equipped with analytics and mounted throughout the parking area can detect the presence of arriving cars or people walking about, as well as individuals loitering in stairwells or secluded area. Upon detection, they trigger a pre-recorded voice message to play over nearby speakers, welcoming visitors and letting them know they are under observation. This has a deterrent effect on bad actors and a calming effect on most everyone else. Voice-over-IP also allows monitoring officers to communicate live with those onsite to provide directions, warnings, or assistance.
Audio sensors and edge-based analytics may be combined with video surveillance cameras to alert monitoring officers of real-time incidents, speeding a response effort. For example, they can detect the sound of breaking glass even if the camera view is obscured. AI can differentiate between the sound of a car back-firing and a gunshot and identify precisely where within the lot the sound was initiated.
Intercom systems are for more than just entry gates. They are also the central technology of emergency call boxes frequently mounted throughout parking areas. In addition to two-way audio, they can include cameras integrated with the site’s video management platform that allow officers to see the person seeking help and a view of the surrounding area. Lights, sirens, and speakers scare away criminals while drawing attention to the site where help is needed.
Accidents, falls, or dropped objects from rooftop parking pose significant safety risks to those on the rooftop and the ground below. Combining intelligent video and audio with virtual fence and perimeter solutions, security staff can warn visitors that they are too close to the rooftop’s edge or direct those below to avoid a dangerous area.
Fires jeopardize personal safety and destroy vehicles, property, and the environment. Parking lots are particularly vulnerable to arson and risk of fire from electric vehicle battery chargers. Surveillance cameras embedded with smoke and fire detection analytics provide early intervention possibilities.
Of course, there is also the forensic component of security technology. In the event of a car break-in, vandalism, theft, collision, accident, or personal assault, the presence of an integrated network solution enables quick searching of data and easy access to rich and accurate visual evidence. Time-stamped video clips can assist in prosecuting perpetrators of criminal acts and defend campuses against bogus personal injury claims.
A Superior Parking Experience
Competition for campus parking is often fierce. When lots are jammed, technology can help drivers find spots more quickly. Video surveillance cameras with analytics monitor the status of parking spots and share the information with drivers via mobile apps or digital signage. The systems can also perform predictive analysis that directs drivers to areas where parking will likely be available when they arrive.
For many drivers, paying for parking can be as frustrating as finding it. They forget their spot number by the time they reach the centralized meter where they must pay, requiring a walk back to the car. Or, they key in the wrong spot number by accident and receive a ticket. In lots where drivers pay at the gate, waits to enter and exit are frequent pain points. When university campuses host sporting or cultural events, the wait to pay can be brutal.
License plate recognition analytics paired with automated payment systems eliminate these hassles. Drivers with a payment account linked to their license plate can speed in and out, confident they will be billed accurately. Lot gates rise automatically for them, and they can bypass feeding the meters or paying an attendant.
More Efficient Management
Parking areas represent a revenue opportunity for many campuses. AI-assisted systems help maximize profitability by reducing operating overhead and ensuring all fees are collected.
For metered parking spots in ungated areas, LPR-equipped cameras integrated with payment systems can track spot usage and flag violations. Instead of paying an onsite officer to issue parking tickets, campus police can mail tickets to drivers along with time-stamped images of their vehicles.
Automated payment systems linked to license plates eliminate the need for human-occupied tollbooths at gated parking structures and lots. Regular users of campus parking can register for autopayment linked to a credit card. Parking fees appear on their monthly statements based on activity captured by LPR cameras.
AI-assisted trend analysis of surveillance footage can inform facility management of times and days when they can operate fewer lots or how to best optimize traffic within lots based on entry and exit paths, parking times, congestion points, and more.
Improperly parked cars and stopped vehicles wreak havoc in a parking area, blocking aisles, loading zones, and obstructing traffic flow. Video analytics can identify such vehicles and provide actionable alerts. When combined with voice-over-IP speakers, a live or event-triggered announcement can instruct the driver to move their car.
Effective parking management is essential on campuses. Historically, technology investments have focused on increasing security. However, today’s integrated, AI-assisted systems can do much more, reducing headaches for drivers and those responsible for parking management. Many campuses already have much of the infrastructure and technology in place. Security integrators can provide added value, and grow their businesses, by educating their clients about the possibilities.
This article originally appeared in the July / August 2023 issue of Campus Security Today.