The term Internet of Things has been part of the public lexicon since the dawn of the new millennium, and these networks of interconnected devices, appliances, and services are becoming the new norm in Toronto’s never-ending wave of modern condo towers. One high-profile example is smart home systems, making use of sensors, software, and other technologies that exchange data to streamline household applications. With smart home devices now more common than ever inside houses, new condo buildings seeking to attract tech-savvy buyers are being built-in with similar smart-connected services and amenities designed to make life easier for residents while maximizing building efficiency. 

One technology becoming more common in new multi-residential developments are touchless (and fobless) parking systems that use automated license place recognition cameras hooked into cloud-based software to grant access only to pre-approved residents and visitors of multi-unit buildings. Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) parking solutions are becoming more popular as building owners and developers look for ways to minimize the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks through hands-free and contactless technology.

Typical condo parking garage lacking Smart ALRP system, image by Jack Landau

While the pandemic is front of mind for many building owners and developers, adopters of ALPR technology are also discovering its several other benefits like reduced operating costs, enhanced parking revenue, and real-time parking data analytics. Another benefit is improved building security, with guests only granted access through registration, and operators being given the ability to blacklist specific vehicles. 

Toronto-based Freely Parking is one major provider of these ALPR systems and has seen an expansion in business despite the challenges brought on by 2020. One new community familiar to UrbanToronto readers that Freely Parking is involved in is the multi-building Trailside and Trailside 2.0 development, now under construction in Oakville. Its developers Distrikt Developments & Fiera Real Estate contracted Freely to provide an ALPR parking solution to serve the complex’s pair of mid-rise condo buildings and townhomes.

“We continue to work with Freely on enhancing our end-users’ experience in our projects by offering a technologically secure, convenient, and efficient service which translates into solid investment decisions in projects built by Distrikt” reads a statement by Distrikt co-founder Emil Toma.

In practice, this SAAS (Software as a service) platform connects into ALPR license plate recognition cameras through a cloud-based web portal for simple set-up and installation. Once installed, the platform works in concert with cameras to register whether a vehicle has been issued a digital parking permit or if it is trying to gain unauthorized access. Vehicles approach the cameras, and almost instantly, the system can open gates or garage doors for registered residents or permitted visitors, while leaving entrances secured for vehicles approaching without digital permits. One specific problem frequently encountered in parking garages is the tailgating of unregistered vehicles behind authorized vehicles. Freely's system is able to address this problem by detecting tailgaters and blacklisting them from entering.

How ALPR system works, image courtesy of Freely Parking

In addition to cost reductions in staffing, Freely’s systems save property owners money through hardware or maintenance costs. Upgrade costs typically budgeted into the future can be eliminated with Freely’s service designed around proprietary future-proofed software with the ability to adapt and upgrade to meet changing needs. While many ALPR systems run on a local server where costs can rack up, Freely's systems don't run on local servers, reducing service and future upgrade costs.

The goal of creating a software-based solution for central control and reduced staffing of parking garages is just one aspect of Freely Parking’s philosophy of “APP/API integration bringing smart products together to operate as one and the importance of ROI.” To further this ethos, Freely has expanded its growth and reach by partnering with various smart home suppliers already working with developers who are well-established in the local condo scene, working together to integrate Freely’s software into an all-encompassing application that they provide to condo developers.

“We are a team of like-minded and determined individuals, all sharing a vision for building smart cities," Andre Luo, Co-founder and CEO of Freely Parking, tells us. "We believe that our sophisticated technologies can deliver a cleaner and more sustainable environment and make people’s lives easier and more connected to their communities.”

As more buildings adopt branding based around “smart” systems, and with builders currently wary of staffing and health/safety concerns, systems like these are likely to become commonplace in Toronto in the coming years.

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Related Companies:  Distrikt Developments, Figure3, Myles Burke Architectural Models