Friday, December 26, 2008

Solving mundane information problems: parking on Boxing Day

Boxing Day is the biggest shopping day of the year in Canada, with many deals to be had. I myself picked up two hardcover books, at a hefty 30% discount. I also went to see a movie today with two relatives and we found ourselves looking for a parking space for nearly thirty minutes.

Spending that kind of time looking for something like a parking space is both frustrating and sad. This is a fairly simple problem that should have been solved quite some time ago. I've seen some places where very simple information systems have been developed for parking garages (e.g. "There are 57 spaces available here") but could we do something better? Maybe order the sections that people park in? Or set up a GIS system that detects whether or not a space is occupied? I'm not an engineer or programmer by education or experience, but I've seen enough systems and tools out there to know that it should be possible.

This idea could be countered by saying that it only delivers value on days of high volume. That said, it could deliver significant time savings and it could play a role in in lowering December stress levels. I would love to do a study in a particularly busy parking area and see if something like this would be worthwhile.

While I'm thinking of mundane information problems, what about shopping in a supermarket? I hate all the irritating wandering I have to do whenever I enter a new shopping market AND the total lack of basic guides (sure, there are labels for each aisle, but what about a guide to the store as a whole?). Ideally, I'd like to be able to use a touch screen (or some other interface) to indicate the types of products I'd like and then simply have a map or route generated for me.

Wandering around discovering things can be fun in a bookstore or a library sometimes, but not in a parking garage or grocery store.


Anonymous said...

The best method for getting a parking space in a crowded parking lot is to watch for people coming out of the shopping mall/movie theatre then follow them in your car back to their parking space and grab that space as soon as they drive away. As for grocery stores, your best bet is to walk around the perimeter, where the fresh food of all food groups can be found - the processed food is in the aisles.

Accidental Archivist said...

This misses the point. I am aiming to suggest that there are everyday problems that could be solved with some information thinking.