!http://www.igniterealtime.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/01/sensor2.png!About a month ago Thiago flew from his home in Brazil to Portland for an in-person visit with the rest of the team here at Jive. When Matt and I went out to the airport to pick him up we noticed long lines of fancy new vehicle presence sensors on the ceiling, one for each short-term parking slot.
Beyond simply sensing the car's presence the device includes bright LEDs that display blue when vacant and red when occupied. Since the device is mounted on the ceiling it is visible from several aisles away and can help guide drivers to available parking slots. After a little searching I came across a presentation by Dan Brame that provides an overview of the PDX parking technology. It turns out that the sensors and lights are just the beginning of a system that is designed to direct drivers to available parking slots efficiently without the need to drive up and down aisles looking for that elusive open spot. Apparently, innovation in the parking lot is happening all over. One of the Clearspace engineers, Aaron, recently came across a blog post about Santa Monica's real-time parking availability maps as well.
!http://www.igniterealtime.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/01/arrow.png!Presence is a powerful concept, and it isn't limited to people. Network devices, parking lot sensors, computers, etc., can all have presence that can be used to make systems more effective. But, as the example above shows, a physical representation of presence, such as a desktop signal light, can be very helpful in some situations. The world is just scratching the surface of this powerful concept. From something as straight-forward as rich presence based on your calendar to advanced sensor networks adapting to topological changes we'll continue to see new value created by new presence detection and inference mechanisms as well as innovative uses of the presence data.