Street Lighting Network: From Basic Light Provider to the Panacea for Ubiquitous Data

networked streetlight data

Q: What’s next for smart streetlights?


A: A giant leap years in the works, networked streetlights become the Internet of Things (IoT) platform to re-purpose a city’s existing street lighting infrastructure.  


When the IoT unfurled a few years ago, the existential purpose of streetlights changed forever. No longer just lights, streetlights became the realistic solution to capture ubiquitous data for the birth of smart cities.


Let’s consider the evolution of city streetlights and the innovations enabling them to become “smarter.”


Phase 1 – Energy savings


Driven by LED lighting technology, the first phase of smart streetlights began about a decade ago in large cities like Los Angeles and New York. Because of the promising 30 to 70 percent energy savings offered by LED technology, deployments are ramping up. Conversions to LED are happening fast; of the roughly 400 million streetlights globally, industry analysts estimate anywhere from 70 to 85 percent will be upgraded to LED by 2030.


Phase 2 – A meshed network


Most people who think “smart streetlight” today consider this phase. Since the deployment of controllable lights in the early 2010s, municipalities and companies have utilized software and technology to create a meshed network where wireless gateways speak with nodes, transmitting data to Web-based interfaces, so authorized users can see and affect lighting performance. 


These meshed systems include control metering with per-pole, utility-grade metering, so cities only pay for what they use, which saves money. Cities can also control maintenance with quicker, more efficient upkeep, resulting in better maintenance scheduling and response to outages, which saves manpower. Finally, cities can control output with more precise dimming schedules, notably for middle-of-the-night operation in low-traffic areas, which saves energy.


Phase 3 – Future-proofed IoT platform


We all need to expand our minds for this phase.


Our definition of smart streetlights expands from a meshed network of controllable lights to a future-proofed infrastructure we can upgrade with intelligent nodes, delivering the panacea for ubiquitous data collection and empowering our smart cities.


Because they have a prevalent footprint in cities, the ability to provide the power needed, and the right height for data capturing, streetlight poles integrate multiple sensors with extensible, open and interoperable platforms. Once a city has deployed intelligent nodes on its streetlight poles, it can start sharing the data openly through accessible APIs and engage all the local stakeholders (i.e., via hackathons involving the tech community, universities and citizens.)


The ubiquitous data needed to generate outcomes (thanks again to the intelligent nodes capabilities) becomes the lifeblood for smart city app development. The engagement leads to “app store” build-out (think of the Apple App Store after developers got hold of data and APIs), so smart cities can offer infinite outcomes.


"There's an app for that" will apply to smart cities that embrace this phase of deployment as the foundation for their digital infrastructure.


We are already seeing companies with outcome expertise like smart traffic, smart parking and citizen safety, utilizing data from these nodes to provide valuable services to cities. From leveraging the data to help citizens find parking spots, thereby reducing traffic, to helping the police detect and respond to gunshots in the city, to helping food trucks find customers, smart city leaders can now enjoy cost avoidance, economic growth and enhanced citizen safety.  


Interested in learning more about smart streetlights for your city?


View our on-demand webinar, "Beyond Smart Lighting, How to Create Your City of the Future Today." Learn, from Austin Ashe, GM of GE's Intelligent Cities business, and Jesse Berst, Chairman at Smart Cities Council, on how your city can empower all departments and unleash citizen engagement. 


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About the Author

Jim Benson, GM Global Marketing, Intelligent Cities


Jim leads a comprehensive global strategy for Current's intelligent cities solution which focuses on helping cities build the digital infrastructure they need to build the intelligent city of the future.