Guildford, in Surrey, UK, the childhood home of computer pioneer Alan Turing, has quietly leapfrogged many larger conurbations to become Europe’s smartest town by piloting the world’s first multi-sensor, multi-asset integrated parking and retail area system, designed to make city centre travel easier, and to help retail businesses thrive.

Developed by Ethos Future Cities, using government and private funding, the Future Cities platform monitors all parking and retail areas, and provides both static and predictive data to help citizens find that last parking space, and to help retailers understand how customers experience their High Street.

The parking system monitors 5,600 spaces in Guildford (and over 200,000 across the UK), and uses Internet of Things (IOT), big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence to predict where the best parking will be for your journey.  This can be fed to your favourite Sat Nav systems to take you straight to a space, without having to cruise around town. Ethos has also developed, in collaboration with Oxford Brookes University, a vehicle based parking space detector, which scans for spaces as it drives.

The retail system was developed with Experience Guildford and Marks and Spencer, House of Fraser and Debenhams, and uses anonymised data from sensors to show how shoppers travel to, and move around the retail areas. This connects to the parking system and offers local authorities, retailers and businesses crucial insights to help drive the economic prosperity of Guildford.

The project in Guildford is a collaborative venture between Guildford Borough Council, Surrey County Council, the Experience Guildford BID and EthosVO; an innovative network of social entrepreneurs.

Guildford Borough Council Lead Councillor for Infrastructure and Environment, Cllr Matt Furniss, said: “We’re pleased to be working on this forward-thinking initiative. Using up-to-the-minute technology will help to reduce issues with congestion in the town and give people an improved customer experience when visiting Guildford.”

Martin de Heaver from Ethos Future Cities said, “The systems we have installed make Guildford a truly Smart Town, and are designed to provide services which will really help citizens and local business. We hope to bring the system to other towns and cities soon.”

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