Smart Street Lighting

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By Terri Williams
For business

Smart street lighting (also known as connected public lighting) can help cities reduce energy use, reduce CO2 emissions, and allow utilities to respond to outages and other issues at a quicker pace. It can also make residents feel safer. But what is smart street lighting and how does it work?

What is Smart Street Lighting and How Does it Work

“City lighting is everywhere in a city that people are, and connected public lighting is a sensible starting point for any smart city initiative,” according to Keith Eagle, head of professional trade sales, US, Signify.

Smart or connected street lighting uses the latest technology to allow city managers and utility companies to manage all connected street lights securely and remotely using a real-time app.

Lighting levels can be customized for individual lights, or by streets or districts; it can be increased when needed for better visibility and safety, and dimmed when not needed, which can save energy and reduce light pollution.

During a power outage, the responsible parties will receive an automatic notification from the smart lighting app, so they can begin restoring power as soon as possible. In addition to pinpointing an outage, the app also tracks the reason behind why a light went out or is close to dying, so preventative maintenance can be used to replace the bulbs before an outage.

The smart lighting system’s ability to measure each individual light point helps utilities and power providers determine where energy is being used and how, which assists in future city planning. “When connected streetlighting is analyzed and patterns are derived from the data, this can inform city leaders about how citizens interact with cities,” Eagle says. “For instance, traffic data captured by streetlights can uncover a prime location for a new restaurant in a revitalized neighborhood.”

Benefits to residents

“Lighting is an essential part of the urban landscape and is a powerful tool to bring new life to cities,” Eagle says. Obviously, residents benefit when lights reaching the end of their useful lifespan can be replaced before – or at least, soon after – they stop working. However, there are other benefits as well. “Smart street lighting results in reduced CO2 emissions, which in turn, create a greener, more sustainable city,” he says.

“But these ROI statistics are secondary benefits to how smart streetlighting installations can enhance the safety and livability of a city,” he explains.

Smart lighting techniques can create a safer place for pedestrians and cyclists. For example, when a pedestrian approaches a crosswalk, the surrounding street lights can get brighter to provide more light. Smart street lighting can also help pedestrians and cyclists avoid obstacles or hazards on the sidewalk. And lighting helps everyone feel safer when they’re walking, cycling, or even driving to restaurants and other public attractions.

Eagle points to the City of Los Angeles as an example of how smart lighting can transform an area. “The city is embarking on a project to expand its smart city capabilities in order to improve public safety and support city services for resident, visitors and local businesses.”

Los Angeles has over 3.5 million residents, and the city also has more streets than any other city in the  U.S., with 215,000 street lights covering 7,500 miles of roadway. “Los Angeles is working to intelligently monitor and manage 110,000 of its 215,000 street lights – which has reduced the city’s energy usage for street lighting by 63% and saved taxpayers almost $10 million annually,” Eagle says.

In the past, maintenance was dependent on Los Angeleans calling to report blown lights, or on crews driving through the city and looking for outages. And even then, work crews had to troubleshoot the outage to determine what happened. However, by being able to monitor the luminaries, the city has been able to take a proactive approach to its lighting system and has slashed response times from days to mere hours.

“Not only is connected public lighting, or smart street lighting, touted for its fiscally responsible energy savings outcomes, but it is also helping cities looking to improve safety, livability and sustainability within the community,” Eagle says.

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Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.