State Tech: Smart street lights lay the groundwork for future IoT deployments

Mon, 2017-10-23 15:08 -- SCC Staff

For cities looking to dip their toes in the water of Internet of Things connected tech, smart street lighting upgrades are proving an illuminating place to start.

A street lighting refresh, complete with LED bulbs, wireless tech, motion sensors that activate lights when passersby are near and connected tech that can alert the city when bulbs need to be changed, can help make streets safer, all while saving governments a bundle in electricity costs.

The Chicago Department of Transportation, for example, recently embarked on a $160 million smart street lighting project, much of which will pay for itself. According to a press release from the city, the LED bulbs and IoT-connected devices will be 50 to 75 percent more efficient than traditional lighting methods, meaning the energy cost savings will largely cover the cost of the modernization project.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles, an early adopter of the tech, has equipped more than 80 percent of its streets with connected lights that feature LED bulbs and 4G LTE wireless tech over the last few years. The city is already seeing the benefits of the change.

The city reported a 63 percent savings on its energy bill in the first year with the new lights, and it’s using the connected poles to improve resident cell service, among other benefits.

But Los Angeles isn’t stopping there. It’s also taking advantage of the technology in ways that can help solve issues unique to the city, equipping the streetlights with sensors that can detect gunshots or other noises that may pose a threat to public safety.

Going forward, city officials are exploring the idea of expanding this capability to recognize air pollution and earthquakes.

Moreover, in Schenectady, N.Y., city officials have targeted smart street lighting as a foundational element of its overall smart city transformation. As part of a greater smart city initiative facilitated through partnerships with Cisco Systems and GE, the city has upgraded more than 5,000 of its existing streetlights to sustainable LED bulbs, making the entire network accessible through a secure web browser.

Schenectady already sees great energy and cost savings from the upgrade, as well as enhancements to public safety, but it’s looking to expand the role that smart street lights can play even further, Mayor Gary McCarthy said at the Smart Cities Week conference in Washington, D.C., last week.