The Next Silicon Valley

Smart lighting in streets forms foundation for quick deployment of smart cities

Earlier this year at a conference in Yinchuan, China, the City of San Diego illustrated how it used street lights and smart lighting as the backbone of its current and future smart cities efforts. The local government worked with GE Current and AT&T to pilot and deploy solutions to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.

At the Smart City In Focus conference hosted by Yinchuan, which says it is one of China’s top smart cities, city government officials, CIOs and policymakers from around the world showcased their own strategies and implementations. Barcelona talked about its open government project highlighting the key concepts of transparency, the use of data, technology, innovation and citizen knowledge. The City of Groningen talked about their mission to make the whole city a test region for autonomous mobility, calling itself the only rural field lab for 5G in the world.

In addition, technology and service providers also showcased their solutions – such as ZTE, who powered the tech platform in Yinchuan, plus IBM, Schneider India and Tencent.

Coming back to San Diego, Erik Caldwell highlighted how they partnered with AT&T and GE to upgrade 14,000 street lights. Around 3,200 CE Current CityIQ sensor nodes were utilized in the street lights to act as gunshot detectors, for finding open parking spaces, measuring air quality and tracking traffic flow of both vehicles and pedestrians. They leveraged a predictive analytics platform to enable data from the sensors to be used by developers to create apps and software.

Smart lighting is not new – it’s been trialled in various cities since the late 2000s, by companies such as Philips and others. Another technology provider, Link Labs, says smart lighting provides a good foundation network for smart cities. In a recent blog, the CTO Brian Ray said that connected street lighting can be leveraged for other IoT (internet of things) initiatives.

He says connected lampposts that can be centrally managed do two things for a city: they cut down on power costs and bolster sustainability goals. However, smart lighting can also serve as a platform for a wide range of IoT initiatives that, in sum, can create a smart city.

Cities install lights where people already are—in commercial districts, major thoroughfares, tourist hot spots and around marquee venues. Lighting infrastructure is already connected to the power grid, and ideally, to a utility fiber network. And light poles are elevated above street level providing an optimal location for small cells, which are seen as a key enabler of everything smart city.

He illustrates with an example of a project undertaken by the city of Chicago to connect some 250,000 light fixtures. The four-year project will update some 85 percent of municipally-owned light fixtures with LED lights, which are expected to consume 50 percent to 75 percent less energy than the existing lighting system.

The light poles will be integrated with the city’s 311 system, which provides a portal for access to city services. In the future, it could also be integrated into the 911 system. Companies like ShotSpotter have seen good traction for public safety-related IoT solutions like gunshot detecting sensors. The lamp post is used as a host for a sensor that can detect the sound of a gunshot, or person screaming for help, then use the connectivity infrastructure already there to alert police to the precise location of an incident.

In Atlanta, AT&T is working with the city on creating a smart city with connected lighting as the first step. That first step involves putting up 1,000 wirelessly-controlled LED lights in partnership with GE, city leaders and utility provider Georgia Power. GE Current is providing its IoT sensor platform for the lighting sites. Broader goals of the project include:

Using the street light as the location, sensors, cameras and other IoT devices can help achieve these goals.

“Utilities are critical to the success of building smarter cities across the region—and the country,” Mike Zeto, general manager and executive director, AT&T Smart Cities, said. “Our smart cities framework brings together utilities, economic development organizations, research institutions, tech companies, the developer community and, of course, the cities themselves. This helps drive real value to cities and their citizens.”

Brian Ray summarizes how a connected lighting site can support some of those application sets:

“The point is, cities can invest in street lighting to quickly see ROI (return on investment) based on lower energy costs, while setting the stage for myriad other IoT initiatives that, when put together, turn a city into a smart city,” concludes Ray.

[Image: GE]

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