Throughout history, regional and municipal governments have used new technologies to improve the lives of their citizens. The aqueducts of Rome brought outside sources of water into the city, enhancing both public and private facilities. The London Underground, the first underground railway, made it easier and safer for people to move around the burgeoning city. Today, cities are using another new technology to transform the ever-present street lights that line most city streets, installing LEDs that dramatically reduce energy use and costs. The impact of LEDs is significant – street lighting can account for up to 50 percent of a city’s entire energy budget, and by simply replacing old street lightbulb technology with LEDs, New York estimates it will save $14 million a year in energy costs, while Chicago estimates it will save $10 million.
However, many cities are taking this street light transformation one step further, using IoT-enabled connected street lighting to improve their citizens’ quality of life, increase revenues, cut costs and support the deployment of a range of smart city applications. For example, smart street lighting enables city officials to increase and decrease street lighting illumination levels at different times of the day or night in response to weather events. Cities can use it to develop “follow-me” strategies that turn on street lighting only in response to specific pedestrian or vehicular activity, allowing them to reduce their energy costs. They can enable light flashing and sequencing to support traffic and crowd control during special events. And they can use connected street lighting to improve safety by increasing lighting in higher-crime areas and by providing first responders with the ability to increase lighting when they respond to an incident.
Smart Connectivity: The Spark of True Intelligence
Until recently, cities trying to centralize connectivity for connected street lighting used proprietary gateways that connected to smaller segments of street lights already connected via low-bandwidth communications, such as power line carrier (PLC) or a local RF mesh network. A cellular modem could also be added for backhaul communications to the central management software platform. However, this proprietary infrastructure was expensive and had limited utility.
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