e-Parking Meter Management System
Description of larger context:
The entire system would consist of individual parking meters communicating with each other and the central station through a wireless network. The algorithm developed would be installed in the individual parking meters. Parking meters would need to be equipped with a sensor, processor, memory and wireless capabilities. The additional hardware needed would fit inside an existing parking meter with the exception of an external antenna. The central station only needs to contain, at a minimum, a single computer. Parking authorities and city governments have to work together to set up the required infrastructure.
Important stakeholders include parking authority officials, its employees and parking meter customers. The system would change the way in which the parking authorities manage the parking meters under their control, requiring changes in policies and procedures and retraining of a substantial portion of the employees. Parking meter customers are the end-user of the system.
Analysis of ethical issues:
One main concern is how the system will affect the current parking authority employees. Those employees whose job is to monitor the parking meters and enforce the rules would see their jobs in jeopardy as the system takes over the task of monitoring, and depending on the sensor, maybe even enforcement.
Other issues concern the parking meter customers. They might be concerned for their privacy: “will the city now keep track of where my car is?”
Ensuring the security of the system is also a concern. As the data travels through the wireless connections, it is important to ensure its confidentiality and integrity. As with most wireless applications, the parking meters would be especially susceptible to denial of service attacks.
Moreover, the system would add a load to the city’s wireless network. The increase in traffic would also affect all other wireless users.
Finally, the system would have to comply with FCC regulations. Bandwidth is limited and there are extensive rules concerning the use of the available bandwidth.
The solution to the first concern would surely be the most complex one. One potential solution would require the parking authority and the city to try to assimilate any displaced workers into other positions that might need to be filled. This change in the parking meter system would create some new jobs, such as changing of the batteries and maintenance of the parking meters. Another solution would be offering them a satisfactory severance package. In either case, it would be important to maintain open the lines of communication between management and the employees so that the level of anxiety is kept at a minimum.
The type of sensor would affect the amount of information available and therefore determine the extent of privacy concerns. On one end, with a sensor that merely determines the presence or absence of a vehicle, it would be impossible to use this system to obtain information about any individual. However, with more advanced sensing such as a camera, privacy concerns would be justified. In such instances, it would also be important to reassure the parking meter customers that data would not be misused. It would probably be best to have the system only obtain the identification of the car if a violation has occurred. Furthermore, special care must be taken to ensure that people with legitimate access to this information do not abuse this privilege.
Ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of the data would involve implementing technological safeguards, such as robust encryption and watermarking protocols.
Long-term traffic monitoring would have to be done to ensure that the system is not being an unreasonable burden on the wireless network. Where this starts to be a problem, the parking authority and the city would once again have to work together to upgrade the infrastructure and alleviate the problem. This might involve installing more access points and improving the backbone network. Also, the transmission range of the parking meters should be set to the minimum required so that it would not cause unnecessary interference.
FCC regulations would have to be researched to determine how they would affect the system. However, given that this system uses Wi-Fi, there should be no infringements.