Find Parking on LSU’s Campus with ParkZen App
March 21, 2022
New App Uses Crowdsourcing to Share Open Spots in Real Time
BATON ROUGE - Driving through the parking lots at LSU to search for an open parking space can be stressful for students, especially with an enrollment that has surpassed 35,000. To address this, Manos Chatzopoulos, assistant professor of Physics & Astronomy, has developed a free smartphone app to assist drivers in locating available parking on LSU's campus.
Partnering with LSU Parking and Transportation Services, ParkZen is now available through the LSU Mobile App. ParkZen utilizes smart data analytics to identify real-time open parking spaces and then broadcasts parking availability in the general proximity of selected campus parking lots. If students forget where they parked, ParkZen can also locate a parked vehicle so there is no need to wander around the lot searching for a car.
“The technology is powered by crowdsourcing with no user-input required, so your privacy is fully respected via location encryption,” said Chatzopoulos. “The more Tigers use the app, the better the parking experience becomes on campus. We only ask that students provide continuous location permissions for ParkZen to seamlessly identify parking availability.”
ParkZen, a collaboration between Chatzopoulos and Haron Temam, a computer science junior, uses an algorithm to determine parking availability by monitoring users’ smartphone connection to their car’s Bluetooth and processing the user’s smartphone motion and activity data. Parking availability is calculated within predetermined geographical regions that can be adjusted where there is a higher demand for parking.
“We initiated a test launch for the Law School parking lots in January, which resulted in a total of 251 downloads and about 100 daily active users just for these lots. This showed us that students not associated with the Law School downloaded the app too, as we started to see data from other lots around the LSU campus. This was a sign of our campus community's need for a better parking experience,” Chatzopoulos said.
“An important goal for LSU Parking & Transportation Services is to ensure that students have a positive experience when traveling around campus and parking, so we are always looking for innovative ways to improve our services,” said Josh Galasso, LSU transportation demand manager. “ParkZen will be instrumental in helping us improve campus parking, and we are excited that the university will become the first smart-parking campus in the country powered by smart crowdsourcing technology.”
Temam, an undergraduate researcher and 2020 W.E.B DuBois Award recipient, was an integral part of creating the technology for the new app.
“ParkZen takes pride in having created the most energy-efficient smartphone background parking detection technology,” said Temam. “We achieve this by only requesting high location accuracy data for a limited amount of time, starting from when a user enters a pre-determined parking area (defined as a geofence) and stopping when the user is found to have parked, typically within one to five minutes. We activate our software in the background only when a user leaves a parking activity area and then show their spot as available on a map in real-time.”
Another feature allows students to toggle between parking lot occupancy maps and heatmaps showing areas where spots are taken by other users.
“This way our students can make informed decisions about where to look for parking even if they don't see real-time recent spots vacated by other users on the map at the time that they interact with the app," Chatzopoulos said.
The ParkZen app recently took home the top prize of a $100,000 investment through Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week’s High-Stakes Pitch Competition. The week is hosted by Nexus Louisiana. The investment prize, managed by the non-profit venture development organization Red Stick Angels, comes from a group of Louisiana-based investors. With this funding, Chatzopoulos hopes to build out a sales team and improve customer support.
If students possess a valid permit but are not sure where to park on campus or which lots they have access to, please use this helpful Permit Access Guide. Students can also visit the Interactive Campus Map that will provide the exact location of all parking lots and zones across campus.
ParkZen can also be downloaded at www.parkzenapp.com. The technology has been registered with the LSU Office of Innovation and Technology Commercialization.