Smart solutions for city parking

MIT Sloan MBA students tackle city parking challenge in three-day hackathon

October 31, 2014

The Enterprise Management Track Hackathon winning team

The Enterprise Management Track Hackathon winning team

Parking in Massachusetts cities such as Boston, Newton, or Cambridge can be exasperating for commuters, residents, and visitors alike. But, what can be done about it?

Four teams of Enterprise Management track MBA students took on this challenge in the second annual MIT Sloan Enterprise Management track hackathon last month. The hackathon serves as an opportunity for students to apply their classroom learning, which, in the Enterprise Management track, emphasizes a holistic approach to problem solving by integrating across functional domains.

Proposed parking solutions incorporating smart technology had to fulfill the demands of visitors and residents while also accommodating limited city budgets.

Representatives from the cities of Boston and Newton, and management professionals from Cisco, IBM, and SAP, spent one day briefing the participating students. Students were advised on a broad set of considerations such as community/neighborhood issues, policy regulations, innovative technology, operations, and resource constraints. On day one, students were trained in a design thinking approach to problem solving by representatives from SAP, a multinational software company. The students then had two days to devise their solutions.

Each team shared its proposal in a brief elevator pitch followed by a 30-minute presentation and Q&A before a panel of judges that included corporate representatives from Cisco, IBM, and SAP, as well as MIT Sloan faculty, staff, and alumni.

The first-place team offered a product it called StreetSense, a proposed app that would rely on existing and new sensors at traffic lights and intersections to offer predictive analytics that would forecast “parking traffic.” An online search-and-pay approach would assist the end user in attempting to locate a parking space in the city.

“We heard from the city administrators on Monday that they have an overabundance of data,” said StreetSense team member Bita Diomande, MBA ’15. “Instead of providing an alternative technology that could be a parallel solution, we wanted to provide an integrated solution that takes into consideration available technology and makes sense of all the data they currently have.”

   The Enterprise Management track hackathon runner-up teamThe Enterprise Management track hackathon runner-up team

The runner-up team proposed a product they called Spaceify. Team member Abigail Wright, MBA ’15, said Spaceify is “a smart transportation solution that helps residents, commuters, and visitors find the best way to get where they need to go by assisting with everything from predicting train delays to guiding users to the most convenient place to park. Spaceify encourages alternative modes of transportation by showing users the true cost of their transportation decisions, both in terms of dollars spent and total travel time.”

Senior Lecturer Sharmila C. Chatterjee, academic head of the Enterprise Management track, said the hackathon was a “real partnership between external and internal stakeholders. It was truly in the spirit of collaboration that our alumnus Scott Wieder, SM ’86, who presented last year’s hackathon challenge from Cisco, suggested we expand our network to include both public and private entities.”

   A team collaborates during a hackathon breakout sessionA team collaborates during a hackathon breakout session

Design thinking workshop instructor and hackathon judge Carsten H. Hahn, from SAP’s headquarters in Germany, said he was impressed with how quickly the students pulled together their proposals. He lauded StreetSense’s winning solution.

“They considered the solution comprehensively … and it could be implemented,” Hahn said.

The hackathon winning team was comprised of Bita Diomande, Alejandro Perez Sanchez, Robin Ganek, Clemens Mewald, and Alexander Boutelle, all MBA ’15.

The runner-up team members were Brendan Mackoff, Abigail Wright, Shari Singh, Damian Hilsaca, and Zaahir Papar, all MBA ’15.