Researchers at IBM in Dublin are hoping to utilise parked cars to provide a service-delivery system.
They say parked cars could be used to help locate missing patients, detect gas leaks or improve home security.
Joe Naoum-Sawaya, a research scientist at IBM in Dublin, said there are over a billion cars in the world, and these are parked 95 per cent of the time, or 23 hours a day.
This means the battery power, sensors and information processing capabilities of cars are underused.
He said the sensors in cars have the potential to be used in additional applications besides their primary ones.
“There are lots of parked cars everywhere doing nothing . . . Cars are programmable devices just like computers,” he said.
IBM said there are 1,097 parking meters in Dublin, of which 365 are smart meters. The researchers garnered data from these to show Dublin city centre is packed with parked cars even during the holidays. Furthermore, the data revealed that the average parking time is 65 minutes.
The researchers found parked cars could be used as sensing devices, to help carers rapidly locate wandering patients or those with Alzheimer’s. Using a low-power Bluetooth bracelet worn by the patient, Bluetooth devices in a fleet of park cars could sense that particular bracelet.
“An Alzheimer’s patient would have a tag-like bracelet. The carers can sound an alarm that someone is missing. The cars are notified that someone is lost. They can detect the person when they walk past and track their location,” Mr Naoum-Sawaya said.
He said sensing devices in cars parked on the street could be used to detect and locate gas leaks: “The cars can report it. They can also communicate with each other to pinpoint the location and time of the gas leak.”
In addition, he said parked cars could also be used to improve home security, as the sensors could detect any movement outside the house and communicate this to the house/home security system.
IBM said the average phone uses almost half of its power communicating with the cellular base station to keep the connection alive. In this regard, another service cars could help with is the offloading of network connectivity from a mobile phone to a GSM module in a parked car.
The connectivity could be offloaded to cars using Bluetooth when a person is in range of the car, as the Bluetooth function uses less power.