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  • Chelsea Webster

5G and Parking


5G is a pretty big deal.

“5G will have an impact similar to the introduction of electricity or the automobile, affecting entire economies and benefiting entire societies” – Stephen Mollenkopf, Qualcomm CEO[i]

I think the best place to start when talking about 5G is making sure we’re all on the same page. So, let’s go over the basics.

Who: Major wireless companies, like Verizon/AT&T/Sprint and others are among the first to build, test and implement 5G technologies. One of the key components is a chip, made by Qualcomm/Intel/Samsung or others. A few other key players in the development of the network include Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei. In the end, it’s meant to benefit everyone who uses wireless communications – the entire Internet of Things (IoT).

What: The evolution of wireless networks, to a faster, more reliable, and bigger network. It’s the next generation of how people and things will communicate. It means more sensors, more frequencies, and more connections. It also brings new network architecture, new radio technologies, and more advanced software[ii].

Where: Everywhere. Worldwide. All the things and people! Likely mainstream in Europe and Asia to start, followed by North America and beyond. As of the end of 2017, these three regions represented 67% of all connected devices[iii].

When: Maybe a trial at the 2018 Winter Olympics[iv]. Some components will roll out over the course of 2018, but the standards have not even been finalized. December 2017 brought an intermediary agreement, and a finalized version is expected in 2018. Overall, it’s unlikely to be out for the general public to use until 2019 (early adopters) or 2020 (majority of new devices will have hardware for 5G by then). Market penetration is predicted by 2022[v].

Why: There are currently too many devices on the 4G networks, bogging down the entire network. This means that connections and response times are slower. Another key factor in the ‘why’ is the number of devices that are becoming connected that never were before – like streetlights, refrigerators, parking meters, cardiac monitors, sprinkler systems, garbage cans, cattle, retail shelves, and a LOT more. All these new devices need a place to connect, which means we need a bigger network. 5G will also mean faster response times, so things like streaming live sports, remote surgery, and autonomous vehicles will all have the speeds they need to become main stream.

How: The 3rd Generation Partnership Project is setting 5G standards, with a preliminary set in release 15[vi] and a more formal, detailed set in release 16 which is expected mid-2018. Then companies will develop the hardware and software according to these specifications. Governments will need to participate with regulating the development, releasing new frequencies for these devices to connect on, and maintaining infrastructure.

If this still doesn’t cover enough of the basics for you, Wired has a great video explaining the smartphone network application of 5G that you can watch for more info[vii]. Or here’s a short story of the evolution of 1G through 5G, 5 technologies that compose 5G, and some differences you’ll see in your daily life[viii].

3 Key Benefits

Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s talk more about why exactly 5G has so much appeal.

First, more bandwidth is being made available to accommodate technology and infrastructure on. This means that each type of device, use, or connection could have its own frequency, thus separating entertainment uses from mission critical functionality[ix]. With dedicated frequencies, each task function becomes better connected and experiences faster communications and fewer interruptions or delays. Fewer demands on the connection mean that the response speed can be increased and critical functions have less chance of going down or being interrupted.

The next is reliability. Connections will be processed indoors, outdoors, in congested areas, anywhere. And they will be consistently processed in any conditions, at any time, everywhere. Receptors will be nearly everywhere, and in very high volumes. That means signals can easily go around buildings, avoid being absorbed by trees (yes, that’s a real problem), and bounce off multiple surfaces without interfering with each other. Better connections will lead to more mission critical functions being trusted to the 5G network.

Finally there is latency. Often when you type something into a search bar on your phone, it takes a few (or what seems like quite a few) seconds for a website or Google Maps or a video or another application to bring up the data you’ve requested. With 5G, that'll be reduced to sub-1 millisecond. That's 400 times faster than the blink of an eye[x]. New technologies like autonomous vehicles and virtual reality will be able to thrive in these conditions.

When applying these three benefits to parking, it’s foreseeable that the apps we develop to guide people to parking spaces will need quicker, more reliable information to be useful in real time. We can also see how the trend towards big data will result in so much information that parking providers will need to streamline information and automate parking needs if they want to stay relevant.

How Many Devices Are On WiFi?

To put some perspective to how many devices connect wirelessly, consider that as of October 2017, there were 8,372,779,131 connected devices and 5,082,297,112 mobile subscribers worldwide[xi]. There are ton of device types that this figure includes. Let’s take a peek at the (perhaps conservative) Gartner numbers, breaking down the quantity of devices per category:

Table 1: IoT Units Installed Base by Category (Millions of Units)[xii]

Based on this prediction, we already have over 8 billion devices connected to the IoT. That outnumbers people on the planet – plus the number is growing very quickly. If you have a look at 2016, in only one year, there has been a 31% increase in devices, and a prediction of another 33% increase by the end of 2018.

Or, perhaps you believe a more aggressive prediction, like this chart from Statista[xiii]

Based on this information, 2016 already had over 17 billion devices connected to the IoT. Here we see a more gradual increase for the next 5 years, but overall significantly more devices worldwide. This estimate is supported by Cisco data showing we had already reached 8.7 billion devices in 2012[xiv].

Whichever version happens to be more accurate, the point is clear: there are a LOT of devices that need to connect via WiFi, and the number is only growing. So, where are we going to put all these things?


Surprise! It’s all going on the 5G network. And the reason it’s all going to fit is that 5G has meant that federal governments are opening up new frequencies across the spectrum so that more devices can connect without interfering with each other. For example, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has allocated nearly 11 additional GHz to 5G research, testing and devices (if you’re really keen, so far they have assigned 28, 37, 39, 64-71GHz)[xv].

Here’s a nifty chart (below) that will put some perspective to this[xvi]. Previously, every single wirelessly connected device had to live within 1GHz, 2.4GHz, or 5GHz. You can see below that all of TV broadcasting takes up about 2GHz of space. Yes, all of the TV; everything. And that space has to compete with everything else too – from walkie talkies to cell phones to sensors to radio to Uber and everything else you can think of. So if all of that added up to the 8-15 billion devices we had at the end of 2017, and we’re going to increase to 20-50 billion devices… you can imagine things will either be incredibly slow, or we will need more bandwidth. Hence why every person and business is keen to have 5G. If you want more info on the frequency spectrum and where things fit in, check out this end note[xvii].

Of particular interest to many parking professionals will be the frequency already set aside for connected and autonomous vehicles (which is 76-81 GHz if you’re wondering[xviii]).

From Radio Stations to Space Explorations

There are a ton of industries and devices that will benefit greatly from 5G connections. To put into perspective how far reaching the technology will be, consider the diagram below with some of the devices already connected to the IoT[xix] (via 4G wireless networks):

Everything from industrial inventory management, shipment tracking, heart monitors, to Google home assistants, thermostats, water mains, airplanes, gym membership use and thousands more applications. Looking closer to the parking industry, vehicles can now get a kit of sensors, parts, and control units to upgrade every aspect of its telematics, from GPS to consumption metrics to driving assistance[xx]. In fact, connected vehicles sport over 100 onboard computers each, and generate 4 terabytes of data per hour[xxi]. With over 48 million connected vehicles expected to ship in 2018 alone[xxii] (and keep in mind this is just the beginning), you can see how quickly all the data and connections start to add up.

And don’t leave parking out of this discussion. Using a cell phone or connected vehicle to link to the internet, then find and pay for parking, is one of the many industries that will benefit from faster connection speeds and lower latency.

Now I did leave one major piece that will significantly impact parking out of that list. Perhaps you’ve already thought of probably the biggest looming technology that needs this bandwidth, reliability, and speed to go main stream? If not, here’s a hint: it starts with autonomous, and ends with vehicles. I’m going to assume you’ve heard of this technology and some of the impacts it will have on parking… With autonomous tech, cars will be communicating not only with the driver, but with other cars, the environment, infrastructure, emergency services, and everything around it. To do that in real time, the latency that 5G brings (as in, under 1 millisecond) will be imperative to decision making[xxiii]. Say a pedestrian jumps out into traffic in front of your car while you’re travelling 60 km/h – how long would you wait to react? And if you’re still not sold on this, have a look into what Honda is up to – testing autonomous vehicle technologies in a 5G based mini-environment[xxiv].

Canada lags behind the US, UK, Germany, and may other developed nations when it comes to offering smart and autonomous vehicles[xxv]; and the biggest deterrent to implementing new vehicle technologies is the lack of WiFi network to connect them. Bell, Rogers and Telus (our major mobile carriers for those unfamiliar with these brands) are just now implementing 4G tech that will allow smart features like diagnostics, GPS, and push notifications to be installed and updated in vehicles. But imagine what the 5G network can bring – level 5, fully autonomous vehicles that can connect and communicate instantly for safe operation across Canada.

Even if you’re not a believer in autonomous vehicles, smart sensors can help you out in the here and now. Farmer’s Insurance is now offering a sensor-outfitting for your car, so that if you’re parked and get hit (enough with the hit and runs in parking lots, people) the car will text you and alert you to the incident[xxvi]. And even contact your insurance company for you!

Now Relate 5G to Parking

With pleasure! I’m going to divide it up into several key functions in the parking realm that will be impacted by 5G: apps, finding spots, payments, enforcement, and data.

Apps: This is by far the broadest category. Apps will require WiFi connections via a smartphone to assist users with everything from finding where you parked your car, summoning your self-driving vehicle, getting notifications about expiring parking sessions, managing parking permits, to seamlessly planning any routine errand or trip. Apps can also be used to get push-notifications about parking restrictions, pricing, zone restrictions, or other necessary information.

Finding a Spot: The ability to pre-plan your parking needs comes with the network of sensors and transmission points that 5G brings. It’s accurate to the smallest distances and can pinpoint the exact parking stall you’re looking for. Having real-time information means knowing exactly which spot will be available as you’re pulling up to it. That saves circling the block and causing congestion, as well as your time and fuel.

Payment: Increasingly, we are seeing people become more comfortable and confident with mobile and online shopping and payment. This has spilled over to parking as well, with people using virtual wallets or one-off transactions to register their vehicles and pay for a parking session. Secure WiFi connections are required to load account balances, process credit cards, and maintain up-to-the-second information. That means parking can start and stop the millisecond you pull into a stall and payment stops the millisecond you pull out. It also means that connections are secure and minimize any data theft.

Enforcement: As parking operators, having real time enforcement information is critical to compliance and citation management. Being able to take a picture, write a ticket, and have it viewable by the offender immediately means people take parking payment seriously. Safety for enforcement officers is also enhanced, as tracking movement and relaying exact locations is done in real time. Any hiccups or safety incidents are reported and can be attended to immediately.

Data: Parking sessions collect a ton of information about the user, including vehicle information, licence plate, address, parking habits and frequency, as well as geographic information about the most popular parking locations, time and dates of highest usage, and a lot more. This data can be accessed in real time to change rates, track vehicles of interest, dispatch enforcement, generate on-demand reports and more. 5G will allow the massive quantity of information collected to be transmitted instantaneously to other vehicles, enforcement officers, dispatch, or other parties.

Alright, so 5G will clearly have a lot of benefit to the current state of parking. But don’t discount ways we haven’t felt an impact yet – as in, through autonomous vehicles. Having these on the road in substantial volumes will play a huge roll in the future of how people find and use parking infrastructure.


There are many governing bodies looking to put their stake in 5G. In the US, there’s the Federal Communications Commission; in Canada we have Industry Canada and the Spectrum Management and Telecommunications department; and in the UK there’s Ofcom[xxvii]. Most countries have national bodies that regulate wireless providers. However, 5G needs to work worldwide – so everyone needs to collaborate.

Hence, the international governing body called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The ITU has 193 member states from a huge variety of industries (telecom, universities, etc.). This organization is part of the United Nations, and it both governs all global radio spectrum and satellite orbits as well as develops the technical standards for networks[xxviii]. The ITU puts on the World Radiocommunication Conference every 3 to 4 years to review and revise all regulations regarding the radio-frequency spectrum[xxix]. So, that’s who regulates all frequencies.

More specific to 5G, there are two key players[xxx]:

  1. 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which develops global standards for mobile communications – including 3G, 4G, 5G and beyond.

  2. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which oversees guidelines for WiFi and other wireless technologies.

Wireless devices can operate as either licensed (exclusive use of a frequency, making it more powerful and robust, but costly to obtain; this is for utilities, and basically everything not covered in the unlicensed category) or unlicensed (industrial, scientific or medical use only, and must follow strict rules about power transmission and interference)[xxxi].

Well, that was more information you ever needed to know about radio spectrum regulation. The point is, 5G has to be regulated at an international level, to create a standardized backbone that all devices have shared, controlled access to. And unlike the internet, this hierarchy is already well established. Phew!

Issues facing 5G and vehicles

Security is a massive risk for cars. This first issue is the physical car – new connected devices often let us unlock, remote start, and use features like Bluetooth phone connections, and a ton more features. However, cars a significantly more vulnerable to hacking and theft as a result of these technologies. Electronic signal copying is easy to do and costs less than $30 in hardware to build a remote unlocking device[xxxii] (the CBC marketplace episode is great if you have time to watch it).

Aside from using The Club to deter theft, you can also thank 5G technologies for connecting the police to car antennas, sensors, remote connection devices, video streams, plus road cameras, police databases and more[xxxiii]. With all this information at their fingertips, police can be notified of, track down, and apprehend a stolen vehicle faster than ever.

The next issue is personal data. With an estimated 1.5 Terabytes of data being transmitted[xxxiv] – per vehicle – per day – it won’t be surprising that some of the information will be personal. So, who owns this data? Should it be the property of the vehicle manufacturer to use for research and product development? Should it be the vehicle owner, who can sell their data to whomever they choose? Or perhaps it’s a value exchange between the two parties, where people pay less for a vehicle in exchange for providing an ongoing data stream back to the manufacturer.

Another point on personal data – no matter who owns it, there is always the risk of theft. I’m no criminal mastermind, but I imagine that data stolen from a vehicle could lead to identity theft, impersonation, or worse.

And the last note on personal data for this rant is around exchanging data for security. The most common example I can think of is with security cameras. You’re on film nearly everywhere – but so are criminals, and so there are deterrents and means of apprehending criminals that were never before so easily accessible. So, where on the spectrum of privacy versus security do we agree to land now that 5G has made WiFi so common and easy to connect to?

Finally, it’s important to think about how secure 5G connections will be. If cars and cellphones use the same bandwidth frequencies to connect to the network, security will be reduced. The reason behind this is that security on these networks is static – as in, much like Norton Anti-Virus, you’ve got to update it for it to have the latest security patches and updates[xxxv]. So if your vehicle is on the network, and security is not up to date, yours may be the first car on the list to hack.

Or worse yet – it could get ransomware installed that you’re completely unaware of. Ransomware is already a huge problem outside of vehicles, with the WannaCry virus being a prominent 2017 example. When applying the issue to vehicles, this means that a hacker could remotely take over your car while driving, parking, or at any moment – and you’d be a helpless passenger[xxxvi]. This is a real technology that has been tested and proven, which you can find out more about in the endnotes.

As it relates to parking, there are two primary security concerns. From the end user perspective, paying for parking is increasingly done with a smartphone and an app. From the parking operator perspective, that parking payment and session information is stored on the cloud. Both of these internet-accessing activities open parking up to ransomware – either via mobile device or the cloud, which are two of the top concerns for cybersecurity professionals (see chart below)[xxxvii].

Hitting Close to Home

If, after skimming all this information, you don’t think 5G is a critical advancement in network technologies, consider something closer to home. Every single second of every day, 2,643,262 emails are sent and received[xxxviii]. How often do you read and write emails? When you pull up your phone or computer, and you check your account, would you like emails to be there from that exact moment? From a few minutes ago? How much latency would be acceptable? And what about when you’re on a call and you go under a bridge or through a tunnel – how frustrating is it when you lose the connection? What if you’re on an important business call at the time? If your messages were in that queue, or you’re on the line with an important contact, how long before you become personally interested in the faster, more reliable connection speed offered by 5G?

Further Reading

This was already way too much technical information for many parking professionals (and basically 99.9% of the population). However, if you’re interested in learning more, here are a few sources I’d recommend:

Measuring the Information Society Report (an annual ITU publication on the state of telecommunications):

5G Spectrum Public Policy Position (published by Group Speciale Mobile Association):

More interesting stats on the number of IoT devices:

An argument on why 5G won’t work for autonomous vehicles:

And With That... I Leave You This Quote

“We expect 5G to become the worldwide dominating mobile communications standard of the next decade.” – Dr. Christoph Grote, Senior Vice President Electronics, BMW Group

End Notes







































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