To Gibson, that missed opportunity is the result of a business case that's too narrow in scope and short-term thinking. "Lighting departments within municipalities are responsible for delivering an effective lighting service for citizens, and budgets are always tight. These departments are not responsible for delivering a smart city platform for the future. But the fact is that adding wireless controls has a proven business case," Gibson said.
To further support that business case, he added that dimming the lights when full brightness isn't needed saves on energy costs and the low maintenance requirements for smart LED lights offer further savings. "These benefits alone are usually enough to pay for the connectivity within five years. The case for controls becomes overwhelming when you add the value of being able to change any aspect of the lighting over time, and then add the value of connecting every light to become a potential sensor hub," he explained.
Gibson said he does see change happening in the $64 billion street lighting market as many cities are realizing the benefits of a broader approach and a business case that includes built-in connectivity.
An example from New York: smart street lights for all
A prime example of what Gibson is talking about is an announcement from New York Governor Mario Cuomo's office Monday that the state will take on a statewide smart street light upgrade program. Smart Street Lighting NY, which will be led by the New York Power Authority (NYPA), will involve replacing at least 500,000 street lights in the state's cities, counties, towns and villages with smart LED lighting. For New York the focus is on reducing energy consumption and emissions and NYPA will provide financing for the municipalities that need it. An added bonus is the program will incorporate smart technologies to support other applications, including sensors, energy meters, Wi-Fi, weather sensors, cameras and other safety devices.
Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.