Why Edinburgh's getting brighter (and smarter)

Depending on which index you read Edinburgh is ranked the second or 13th smartest city in the UK. Regardless of which ranking you read, the city of about 482,000 has the requisite credentials. Edinburgh  is streamlining city customer services — in collaboration with residents. It's piloting free WiFi in local libraries. And the city council has prioritized economic development, environmental sustainability, public safety, quality of life, inclusivity, health and wellbeing and other elements of a broad smart city agenda. This week the city announced that one of its consultant partners, systems integrator firm CGI Group, had chosen Council Lead Partner Telensa to deploy its wireless central management system for smart street light controls. For cities on the fence about embarking on a smart street light project the story below may help them reach a decision, or at the very least provide a few more talking points.  — Doug Peeples


No. Smart street lights aren't a new concept.

The Smart Cities Council has been recommending smart street lights for cities wanting to become smarter for some time. Why? Smart street light networks offer not only enhanced public safety, the potential for significant energy and maintenance cost savings but also a platform to launch additional applications, from free public WiFi and environmental sensors to traffic management and the enhanced connectivity that is becoming essential for cities as they prepare for 5G telecommunications and autonomous vehicles.

For Edinburgh, smart street light control and management is part of the city's ongoing energy efficiency program. Telensa has already begun deploying its central management system (CMS) for 64,000 street lights and the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Telensa's PLANet wireless CMS provides centralized remote control of a city's lighting for each light through wireless connectivity, real-time monitoring for faults and energy consumption data to improve energy billing accuracy.

And pays for itself
Those capabilities mean reductions in maintenance and energy costs, improved service and a network that can be used for a variety of other applications that require connectivity and monitoring (for example, a variety of smart sensors). According to Telensa, those savings in energy and maintenance costs are large enough to pay for the deployment.

As the project continues, the city will keep residents informed of its progress. "We are rolling out energy efficient street lights with smart remote controls to communities right across the Capital, starting this summer and continuing on a ward-by-ward basis until the end of 2020," said the city's Transport and Energy Convener Councillor Leslie Macinnes. "We're making every effort to minimize disruption to residents and businesses throughout and will target information to communities as the rollout comes to their area."

Last year Edinburgh was identified as one of 15 cities designated to receive a share of $5.75 million earmarked for energy efficiency in homes, businesses, public buildings and community projects. The funding is provided through Scotland's national energy efficiency program.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.