On the fence about smart street lights? Here are 4 reasons why you shouldn't wait

Thu, 2018-02-22 13:42 -- Doug Peeples

Image courtesy of Telensa

Cities throughout the world have chosen to replace their legacy street lighting with energy-efficient and reliable LED networks, and the great majority of street lights are expected to be converted to LED within the next 10 years. Surprisingly, most of them aren't expected to be 'smart,' as in connected. That's a very important distinction. In our story below we share highlights from a recent blog by Will Gibson, CEO of Council Lead Partner Telensa, on why connectivity is the secret sauce that optimizes street lighting networks in a way that ensures our cities will be truly livable and sustainable. — Doug Peeples

As Telensa CEO Gibson says in his blog, cities installing LED street lighting networks without making them smart are missing out.

Referring to a report from market intelligence firm Northeast Group, Gibson noted that 89% of the world's street lights will be LED by 2027, but that no more than 29% of them will be connected.

Cost is part of the short-term business case for smart streetlights. "But cities could be missing out on the strategic potential of connected streetlights. The idea of using streetlight networks as vehicles for other smart city applications is already well established in some countries, enabling applications from air quality monitoring to connected waste bins. That's not surprising because streetlights are an ideal base for sensors in so many ways."

He cites four specific examples to support his statement:

  1. Smart street light networks efficiently map populations: where people live, work, play or travel there are already street lights
  2. Unlike crowd-sourced data from mobile apps, street light sensors provide reliable, accurate reference point information
  3. Street light networks provide the power sensors need, eliminating the need for batteries and the maintenance/replacement they require — and they can provide sufficient power to equipment that uses more electricity, such as video cameras
  4. They provide a safe and secure base for sensors because they are mounted well above the ground and aren't a hazard for passersby or susceptible to vandalism

While smart LED street lights are adaptable to many situations and their brightness can be adjusted as needed, they require a Central Management System (CMS) and wireless data connections to perform those functions. And, as Gibson explained, the best time to install those wireless controls is when the lights are being replaced with LEDs. While installing the controls and communications when the new lights are installed is common in many countries, most replacement projects throughout the world aren't taking that next step toward connectivity.

And he's not the only one who thinks so. A smart street lighting report from Navigant Research released during the second quarter of 2017 had this to say: "Adding controls to street lighting systems offers many benefits, but controls technology is not being adequately exploited."