|ANPR technology captures the registration plate at the car park barrier|
Forgetting where you parked your car may soon be a thing of the past, at Heathrow's Terminal 5 at least. For the airport has become the first in the world to use ‘Car Finder,' a unique technology developed by Siemens Building Technologies Security Solutions which allows a vehicle to be located simply by inserting a parking ticket into an interactive machine. The same technology will also help a driver find the nearest space when entering the car park.
Car Finder is the most visible element of a complex £9m security scheme designed by Siemens for use at Heathrow's £4.2bn Terminal 5 building, which opened in March 08. The system comprises Siemens enhanced automatic number plate recognition technology (ANPR), Car Finder, barrier control, bay monitoring, CCTV with digital recording, and digital signage, all feeding into a central hub, the NCP Terminal 5 control centre.
So how does the Car Finder system work? When a driver arrives at the car park barrier, ANPR technology captures the registration plate and prints the details on the ticket. As the driver turns onto each floor free spaces are highlighted by a green light above each individual bay. The car is tracked by up to 35 infrared cameras which feed details of where it is parked into the system. On returning, the driver can insert the ticket into one of the 16 ‘Car Finder' kiosks to view a 3-D map. As well as showing where the car is parked, the map also indicates access points such as lifts and stairs to make it even easier to return to the vehicle.
NCP (National Car Parks) operates the car parking facilities for BAA and both were keen to maximise the customer experience with a sophisticated system worthy of the Norman Foster designed, ultra modern Terminal 5 building, as Hugh Fenn, Retail Services Director BAA explains:
"The customer experience is paramount to us. We are really proud to be able to facilitate our passengers onwards and inbound journeys with our unique Car Finder service, a truly innovative concept which befits our flagship Terminal 5."
On return, the driver inserts ticket into one of the 16 ‘Car Finder' kiosks to view a 3-D map to locate car
For maximum cost efficiencies, the Terminal 5 project incorporates some existing technology previously developed by Siemens for BAA. For example, the system offers automatic entry and exit for online bookers and for staff vehicles; a car park management system allows the operator to quickly assess ‘who's in' the car park; there is also an integrated lost ticket handling facility. These ‘tried and tested' technologies were upgraded where necessary to cater for the increased capacities and to integrate into the newly developed ANPR and Car Finder systems. Peter Hawksworth, managing director, for Siemens Building Technologies Security Solutions explains:
"We were approached by BAA to develop a state of the art system for Terminal 5. To put this in perspective the Terminal 5 building is the size of 50 football pitches, spread over 6 floors, with a total of 3800 car parking spaces. Terminal 5 is one of the world's largest airport terminals in its own right and is scheduled to handle 27m passengers a year."
"As always, our objective was to exceed the operational requirements of the original brief. We really wanted to go that extra mile. To do this we had to drive the equipment harder and smarter. Our in house capabilities which include expertise in both security systems and emerging information technologies allow us to do that - the results speak for themselves."