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Clusters - Carlino Casari on HandyP@rking

Car park 
This is the first in a series of features on cluster projects: through chats with the scientific directors, we will be given a tour of each project so that we can learn what they are about. First about clusters: they are pools of SMEs operating in the same or allied sectors and which, on the basis of shared objectives, design and implement development and innovation projects.

Cluster projects may be based on two approaches:
- "Top Down": the knowledge built by research teams is transferred to enterprises in order to develop shared innovation through a prototype, model or method.
- "Bottom up": the cluster's actions are built around common issues experienced directly by undertakings, without the intermediation of research centres, with the aim of developing and testing a prototype, model or innovative method.

The first to talk to us is Carlino Casari, the head of HandyP@rking, a project led by the CRS4 and implemented with a group of IT enterprises, which is intended to simplify drivers' lives by allowing them to spot parking spaces via their smartphones.

Can you take us through the HandyP@rking project and its aims?
First of all, HandyP@rking is a "Cluster Project" i.e. an outreach project bringing together research bodies and enterprises around a common objective. Coming down to specifics, HandyP@rking falls under the heading of "smart city" projects, i.e. initiatives targeting the smart and innovative use of public services in urban centres to improve quality of life and meet the needs of citizens and enterprises, as well as public authorities. A major problem in urban areas is how to optimise vehicle traffic flows, which are heavily impacted by the number of vehicles looking for parking. This can account for up to 30% of vehicle flows in urban centres, with significant energy, environmental and health impacts. If we consider that in Italy there are about 35 million registered vehicles, and that about 60% of them are based in urban areas, we can get an idea of the quality-of-life benefits generated by more efficient use of parking spaces. If each vehicle saves an average daily distance of 3 km multiplied by 300 days per year, this translates into mileage savings of about 20 billion km/year on a national scale, with significant impact on the direct and indirect costs borne by the community at large. These figures suggest there is room for interesting business models for mobility services enterprises.

How far advanced is the project?
The project is based on a core system which enables booking of controlled-access car parks and monitoring of on-street parking spots through image analysis. This core system has been completed and is currently being tested to check its operating parameters. At present, the system is installed within the CRS4 infrastructure and can be used by the businesses belonging to the cluster through specific APIs. On completion of the project, the system will be released under an Open Source licence, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the call for Top-Down Cluster projects.

What was the role of participating businesses?
The cluster businesses played an active role in the project's early stages, during which they contributed significantly to defining operational objectives and technical specifications. During the test phase, interaction with businesses intensified again, especially as to the testing of results and the transfer of the know-how developed within the project. One of the cluster enterprises, Sagana srl, was a key collaborator also during this intermediate phase, achieving effective verticalisation by adding to the core of HandyP@rking a mobile payment system, to allow management of the whole cycle: identification of the parking point from the start of the journey, booking and payment on arrival.

How is the 'smart city' concept changing habits of city dwellers?
The smart city concept is basically about rethinking the way of life in urban communities. The concept was proposed some years ago by IBM, with a vision which ranged from smart town to smart planet, by successive scale expansions, and which addressed all the main themes of modern societies. Analysis of our systems for travelling, working and interacting with our environment has shown that many consolidated city life practices are actually quite inefficient if analysed from the viewpoint of the urban ecosystem. The availability of new, low-cost pervasive technologies is allowing us to redesign the essential city services in a more efficient manner: this also frees up resources which can be directed to other major public welfare sectors.

Related pages
Sardegna Ricerche - Strategic Sector Clusters

Useful links
HandyP@rking – Official website