Beverly Hills: Enabling A Smart City Through Mobile Apps

Jennifer Horowitz

Cities all over the world are increasingly testing and adopting mobile technologies that enable residents to connect to various public services and information sources. For the City of Beverly Hills, for example, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) has worked with California-based smart parking company Streetline to implement mobile parking apps and hockey puck-shaped sensors in hundreds of metered spots around the City.

Similar to in-car navigation systems, the ParkMe by Streetline and Parker by Streetlinemobile apps use global positioning satellites to send real-time information on nearby parking destinations and available parking spaces directly to the user’s phone.

I recently interviewed David Schirmer, CIO of the City of Beverly Hills and we discussed mobile parking apps for smart cities, citizens’ adoption of mobile technologies, his role in implementing these tools, and more.

Jennifer Horowitz: Could you tell us more about your role as CIO of the City of Beverly Hills?

David Schirmer: The City of Beverly Hills is committed to being among the smartest and safest cities in the world.  As such, technology plays an essential role in achieving this vision. Increasingly, projects undertaken by a municipality have a very strong technology component – from Police and Fire 911 dispatch systems to field crew work order and asset management systems, parking systems, eGov applications, communication systems, and so on.

The CIO’s role has expanded beyond the care and feeding of servers, networks switches, desktops, and communications systems, to providing e-business strategy to the enterprise to facilitate operational efficiency and effectiveness.

JH: With the Parker app, motorists in Beverly Hills can easily access and locate available parking spaces using their smartphone. The city of Beverly Hills has also joined with Venice, in downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood, to leverage the latest mobile parking technologies. What would you say is your strategic approach in doing this for Beverly Hills?

DS: Beverly Hills recently surveyed its residents and businesses on issues facing the community. Traffic and parking were again identified as top issues of concern for the respondents. To help address this, we developed tools that ‘mine’ our parking system database for real-time space availability in our parking facilities.

From here the data are made available for consumption by web and mobile applications to dissemination for the public.

Based on Beverly Hills’s geography, traffic and parking are regional issues that require a more macro approach to address. As such, we tend to look at solutions that cross jurisdictions boundaries that support interoperability and regionalism.

JH: Do you feel the apps have given the residents of Beverly Hills a new mobile experience so far?

DS: In areas of Beverly Hills, we have heard that close to 40 percent of traffic is caused by people looking to park. Any tools that we can provide to better inform the public on available parking is a benefit. We feel this is just a first step in providing mobile apps that improve the experience of living in and visiting Beverly Hills.

JH: Do you feel pressure to better enable more efficient living for Beverly Hills residents?

DS: Without question, this is the case. Here in Beverly Hills, the CIO is fortunate in that a technology committee has been established to provide advice and counsel on technology matters. The committee is made of former mayors, commissioners, and residents who hold significant expertise on technology issues. In general, the committee is steering Beverly Hills to be a ‘me first’ city rather than a ‘me too’ city.

JH: There are several international cities testing smart technologies, such as in Nice, Singapore, and Barcelona, which have also introduced connected parking sensors. How do you feel now that Beverly Hills has its own smart technologies integrated into its parking system?

DS: We feel that this is just the beginning. In the past, the city has focused significant attention on developing mobile apps that extend the city’s eGov offerings to the mobile platform. Some of the offerings available include live and on-demand video of council and commission meetings, augmented reality that showcases local businesses, city events and attractions, and so on.

JH: What are some advantages of these technologies which make parking more sustainable, efficient, or economically beneficial for cities and residents?

DS: As technologists, we think a lot about how best to make meaningful information available to our workforce and the public. Early on, we saw mobility as the new computing platform that could make information available anytime and anywhere. Taking parking as an example, by quickly and easily communicating real-time parking availability via a smartphone has a beneficial impact in terms of user experience, environmental sustainability, efficiency, and with the very real potential of improving economic development.

JH: Are there any plans to expand the parking app and technologies to other programs?

DS: We are currently undertaking a new five-year technology plan, and mobility is featured prominently in our future plans. Some potential enhancements include on-street parking meter availability, in-garage space monitoring, preferential parking permitting, pay-by-phone, security video integration, and so on.

In terms of other applications, we see providing mobile apps to field staff to facilitate access to information needed to work more efficiently and effectively.  For the public, our goal is to create an environment for conducting business with the city as streamlined as possible whether that be via a smartphone, tablet, the website, or in person.  

JH: Has there been any challenges with Beverly Hills’s smart meters?

DS: The City of Beverly Hills was an early adopter of smart parking meters that accepted credit and debit cards. This program has been very well received and served as the model for other communities to follow. One of our challenges has been that technological advances have outpaced the useful regard of these meters. This is to say, new smart meters have better networking capabilities, better power systems, and are much better at detecting if the space parking space is occupied.  

JH: Do you see smart parking technologies and trends being more commonplace in the future with other U.S. cities?

DS: This is inevitable. There is now an expectation of both government and the private sector that mobile transactional tools are available to facilitate and improve the customer experience.  

The City of Beverly Hills is a neighborhood which is contributing to the development of smarter cities through mobile technologies. The ParkMe by Streetline app and Parker by Streetline is a leading parking guidance application beneficial for motorists. There has been a significant increase within the industry over the past year to enable intelligent systems and connected infrastructure.

For more on smart cities, see How Future Cities Can Engage Citizens.

Jennifer Horowitz

About Jennifer Horowitz

Jennifer Horowitz is a management consultant and journalist with over 15 years of experience working in the technology, financial, hospitality, real estate, healthcare, manufacturing, not for profit, and retail sectors. She specializes in the field of analytics, offering management consulting serving global clients from midsize to large-scale organizations. Within the field of analytics, she helps higher-level organizations define their metrics strategies, create concepts, define problems, conduct analysis, problem solve, and execute.