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Zia Yusuf, CEO of Streetline, Inc., a provider of innovative parking solutions

Zia Yusuf, CEO of Streetline, Inc., a provider of innovative parking solutions

By Richard Silberman, Writer/Researcher, IBM Communications

Ask Zia Yusuf what he does for a living and he’ll likely say, “I’m in the parking business.” More precisely, he’s in the business of trying to put an end to parking as we know it and utterly transform one of the most familiar and frustrating acts of daily life.

According to Yusuf, an estimated 30 percent of traffic in cities is caused by people driving around in search of parking. As CEO of San Francisco startup Streetline, Inc., Yusuf is working to deploy sensors in cities around the world to guide drivers to open parking spots and help municipalities better manage their parking and traffic resources.

Yusuf’s ultimate goal is nothing less than to change how people work and live across the world. “Pointing drivers to available parking will save them time, alleviate congestion and reduce carbon emissions,” Yusuf said. “It means happier drivers and greener cities.”

Envisioning cities filled with sensors

Streetline pioneered wireless parking sensors, according to Yusuf — but parking is just the first step in his vision to use low-cost sensors to create smarter cities. Once Streetline’s network is initially deployed for parking, it can easily be adapted to support other types of sensors, such as pollution monitors.

“An informed planet is a smarter planet, and sensors hold the key to getting the information we need to support better decision-making and improve the quality of life in our cities,” Yusuf said.

“We started with parking because it provides a large return on investment that we can use toward future initiatives,” Yusuf said. “Parking may not sound glamorous, but it’s a huge challenge for cities and consumers and is a significant business opportunity. It’s a sector that has changed very little in decades and is ripe for innovation.”

From big banks to small change (as in parking meters, that is)

Yusuf did not start out as a start-up kind of guy. In joining Streetline as CEO in July 2010, he made a sharp turn from a career that included Goldman Sachs and The World Bank, followed by ten years as an executive vice president at business software giant SAP AG.

“I joined Streetline because I wanted to do something that used very high-end technology to solve some very basic problems, and I wanted to do it in a way that impacts people’s lives on a day-to-day basis,” Yusuf said. “There are very few times in your career that you have the opportunity to potentially change an industry — and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Streetline's Parker (TM) application, which guides drivers to open parking spots

Streetline's Parker (TM) application, which guides drivers to open parking spots

Yusuf’s passion for making a difference extends well beyond the workplace. As an associate consulting professor at the Stanford University Institute of Design, he teaches “Liberation Technology” — a course where his students, in conjunction with the University of Nairobi in Kenya, develop mobile applications to support health, education and economic development.

When parking becomes a pleasure

Looking ahead, Yusuf is confident that guided parking will become the norm within the next few years. It is currently available in parts of New York City, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and many other US cities, with growing interest in cities worldwide.

Streetline’s next move is to create an integrated parking platform to connect parking providers, such as garages, shopping malls and universities, with parking consumers. Providers will be able to set rates and offer reservations, while consumers will be able to check real-time parking availability and make mobile payments, among other capabilities.

“The whole concept of guided parking really captures the imagination,” Yusuf said. “When I’m driving and say that I am now going to make a right turn and there will be three empty parking spaces — and there they are — it blows people away.”

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Streetline uses sensors to guide drivers to open parking spaces and provide cities with valuable data to help them strategically manage their parking assets. Drivers in a growing number of cities can use Streetline’s Parker™ application, available for iPhone and Android smartphones and compatible tablets, to receive real-time data locating open parking spots (integration with in-car navigation systems will be coming in the future). Cities use Streetline’s live sensor data to get an accurate picture of parking occupancy and turnover and to put parking data into the hands of residents and visitors. Streetline won IBM’s 2010 SmartCamp competition and was named IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year.

Streetline CEO Zia Yusuf, who grew up in Pakistan, is also on the board of Developments in Literacy (DIL), a non-profit organization that provides quality education to disadvantaged children in the underdeveloped regions of Pakistan. In addition, he co-founded IMUKA, a Tanzania-based music group whose mission is to share the music of Tanzania with the world and foster economic independence across the country’s rural communities.

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July 31, 2013
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July 28, 2013
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July 22, 2013
3:16 am

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Posted by: Katheleen Lanier
July 30, 2012
3:03 am

wow.. great ideology. Love to find out about this.

Posted by: limo dc
February 6, 2012
9:06 pm

!! Yusuf is the kind of guy we should give round of applause. He probably stops, think, evaluate, even fell him

Posted by: ゴヤール
January 8, 2012
10:18 pm

great idea…theres another gentleman here in Montreal with the same idea.

great minds think alike ?

Posted by: Ben
November 30, 2011
4:10 am

Amazing stuff keep doing good work Sir.Yusuf…

Posted by: Taxis Toronto
September 19, 2011
11:02 am

You need 2 types of spots…those that are “reserve-able” via a website/app and one set that are incidental..make it a 50/50 ratio so those that know they are going to be in an area ahead of time can reserve a spot for a certain length of time. The other spots can use the system you are proposing…

Posted by: David
September 17, 2011
2:13 pm

Thank you all for the great set of comments and encouragement. The Streetline team is seeking to rethink parking and change the way people live and work. I wanted to respond to a couple of the posts.

Kevin- you are quite right, if we guided people to a specific spot then there could be a problem with manny people going there. Because of that we only guide people to a block and use a system of “<2" "2+" and "4+". This indicates the number of open spaces in a block where parking is available – therefore eliminating the issue of many people going to the same spot.

Mary Jo – you are quite right that we can show specific handicapped and electric vehicle charging station. We have such a deployment at University of Maryland. If you use our app you will see we have several filters for garages, payment method etc. We will be including handicapped and EV station spaces as well.

Thanks again for the support. ZIa Yusuf, CEO Streetline, Inc.

Posted by: Zia Yusuf
September 16, 2011
5:04 am

Great idea, parking in large cities is indeed a massive problem, at least in the city centre. Hope the software will lift off.

Posted by: Michael
September 13, 2011
8:07 am

Yusuf, one of the pioneer of a smarter planet, and what a great idea. Congrats.

Posted by: Ruchir Pathak
September 12, 2011
11:55 am


Way to go on the innovation!

This is a nice blend of existing technologies wrapped together in a different way resulting in a new and valuable capability.
Very pragmatic and very doable.

Posted by: Richard Ernst
September 12, 2011
8:29 am

Cool idea!!!

Posted by: Imran
September 11, 2011
6:56 pm

Wonderful to see some of the ideas from one of my graduate school mentors at UCLA, Don Shoup, coming to life in this technology. Check out the latest issue of Access Magazine from the the University of California’s Transportation Center for an article by Don on Free Parking or Free Markets.

Posted by: Leslie Goldenberg
September 11, 2011
9:27 am

Fantastic! This is INNOVATION at work!
Leaving glamorous career with Bluechip companies to solve global problems such as traffic deserves global appreciation.

Well done Zia! My prayers are with you and Streetline!

Posted by: Saad Hussain
September 11, 2011
2:53 am

Excellent aprocah to solve one of the major problem

Posted by: Rahman
September 10, 2011
11:30 am

Its really excellent Yusuf the way you developed this trafic plan.

Posted by: Hameed
September 10, 2011
10:50 am

Great idea bro….

Keep going..

Posted by: Mujahid
September 10, 2011
5:28 am

great idea indeed.

Posted by: Ankit
September 9, 2011
10:34 pm

Yusuf Good idea. But I think this is a tactical solution for the symptom rather than addressing the root cause

More Info on Parking available

Leads to More people driving rather than taking public transport because parking is easily available

Leads to more congestion on the road; more pollution

Posted by: Viswa
September 9, 2011
2:56 pm


Posted by: Kashif
September 9, 2011
1:13 pm

This idea could be extended to include parking spots designated as handicapped parking. It would be especially useful to the handicapped population to enter the desired destination address and the program points out the nearest available handicapped parking spot.

Posted by: Mary Jo Mueller
September 9, 2011
12:47 pm

Great idea… this would save so much time…Really Innovative..

Posted by: Jaswanth.Saladi
September 9, 2011
10:14 am

Great idea! The one challenge that popped to my head was what if a spot was indicated as free, and as the user make his/her way towards that spot somebody else takes it? That would cause some added frustration to the user.

Some people may try to rush to an available spot and therefore speeds in the process of getting there, putting more drivers and pedestrians in danger. However I am sure these issues will all be dealt with as your company continue to evolve this technology. Best of luck!

Posted by: Kevin
September 9, 2011
8:53 am

Great job this will help in day to day life issues

Posted by: Vineet Mahajan
September 9, 2011
8:12 am

Great effort Yusuf, this will truly help people manage their time and safety around the world.

Posted by: Javid Qureshi
September 9, 2011
8:12 am

Best of luck Yusuf, great work.

Posted by: Salim Amoura
September 9, 2011
7:07 am

Congratulations Yusuf!!! Really a wonderful idea which helps to stop lot of carbon emissions from the cars in searching of parking places..And we need lot of such ideas for making our planet both smarter and greener !!!

Posted by: Anil
September 9, 2011
6:43 am

Now, That’s Thinking!

Posted by: bart
September 9, 2011
6:39 am

Why do we have to go there why not bring the required stuff to residence.

People go to shopping wish online portals are more popular and a truck transports good to residence.

Then only those who love to drive will be on the road.

Posted by: Mohammed Umar Sheriff
September 9, 2011
5:57 am

Amazing !! Yusuf

Posted by: Ankit
September 9, 2011
5:49 am

Wow wonderful and innovative…..I applaud!!!

Posted by: Nusrath
September 9, 2011
3:54 am

Great idea. Parking everywhere in the world is a very big problem. Once implemented and used properly, this will reduce time wasted in searching for the parking. Good luck to Yusuf. This will really provide insight to resolve many other problems and provides opportunities for innovative minds.

Posted by: Prasad Kaggallu
September 9, 2011
3:50 am

Really good ..! Congratulations Yusuf…

Posted by: Aravind S
September 9, 2011
2:17 am

This is a wonderful idea Yusuf… something that has enormous potential to grow and make the life of common man a bit hassle free at the same time….. and to help you grow .. IBM is the perfect partner.. we share the same vision and passion.. so, .. let’s build a smarter planet!!!!!!…

Posted by: Nizamuddin khan
September 9, 2011
12:43 am

He makes all Pakistanis feel proud…

Posted by: Shahnawaz Ali
September 8, 2011
10:40 pm

Finding Parking within organisation premises is a challenge in most locations. Will help staff, if implemented in each office.

Posted by: Venkat Kumaresan
September 8, 2011
7:15 pm

I wish him the very best of luck. The parking situation at the moment (at least in Melbourne) is atrocious – we have sensors in the road, but instead of guiding drivers to spaces, they guide the parking inspectors to those who have overstayed the limit.

Posted by: Matt
September 8, 2011
6:57 pm

This is great, Keep up the good work, This will help reduce road rage.

Posted by: Faize Mohammed
September 8, 2011
6:41 pm

Fantastic way to help us make a Smarter Planet!

Posted by: Twyla Guyette
September 8, 2011
5:11 pm

Wow this wud be great application

Posted by: Neetu
September 8, 2011
4:50 pm

Amazing !!! Yusuf is the kind of guy we should give round of applause. He probably stops, think, evaluate, even fell himself, see a need and give an great idea for that.
We have thousands of such problems, difficult situation in our day to day life that we can give a solution.
Yusuf just joined one problem, his idea in a device already sold in the market.
We have thousands of problems, or opportunities? Waiting for thousands of solutions.
Congratulations Yusuf!

Posted by: Ricardo
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