Intelligent LED Streetlighting an IIoT Change-Agent in Smart Cities

By Alex Chatha

Industry Trends

Intelligent LED street lighting networks are proving to be a transformational force in smart cities, providing an affordable option for cities to deploy an IIoT platform that is delivering real quantifiable results. A smart city is one that has undergone a digital transformation, where communication infrastructure has been deployed via an intelligent network to address challenges within city communities.   These challenges include parking, traffic, transportation, streetlighting, water and waste management, safety and security.

Domestically, here in the US there are approximately 45 million streetlights and globally I have seen estimates as high as 600 million streetlights and greater than 4 billion outdoor lighting fixtures, of which 90% still use traditional bulbs.  Lighting for cities is expensive, with energy and maintenance costs accounting for approximately 40% of their budgets.  In New York City, lighting uses approximately 295.5 million kWh, which costs $50 million a year for electricity alone.  Transitioning to smart LED networks represents a tremendous opportunity for municipalities to not only save a substantial amount of money on energy and maintenance costs, but to also become a smart city and offer the platforms to create opportunities for effective and productive engagement with its citizens, businesses, and visitors.

Streetlighting with controls can utilize time-based scheduling or even daylight to adjust dimming levels and achieve some energy savings.  On the other hand, Intelligent LED streetlighting networks featuring embedded software, sensors and microprocessor-based controllers capable of edge computing and data gathering offer digital capabilities that go well beyond traditional lighting controls.  The power of these systems is magnified when deployed with a multitude of sensing devices and intelligent cameras utilizing smart algorithms. These systems are providing smart city operators and managers access to real-time awareness using dashboards and location-based intelligence.

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Some of the capabilities IIoT-enabled streetlighting networks can provide smart cities include:

  • Monitoring of traffic with rerouting capabilities and stoplight optimization, which is particularly useful for public transit and maintaining reliable scheduling

  • Scanning of lanes for stalled vehicles or double parkers inhibiting traffic flow

  • Gateways to control roadway lane control systems

  • Manage parking compliance, and monitor parking space availability on the street and in garages which studies have revealed may be responsible for 30 percent of all car emissions by urban drivers

  • Monitoring of environmental conditions including temperature, humidity, air quality and pollen counts

  • Indicate whether roads need to be plowed or potholes need to be filled

  • Allow smart buildings to communicate to the surrounding streets to extend their reach to the sidewalks

  • Perform self-diagnostic checks, including prescriptive maintenance and end-of-life calculation estimates for LEDs

  • Gateway for smart meters used for electricity, water, and gas

  • Gateway for sensors and transmitters used to monitor waste water and storm sewers

  • Incorporate irradiance sensors to help cities or utilities that rely on solar energy better balance their grid

  • Monitor seismic activity

  • Sense airborne particulate matter such as smoke from a fire

  • Provide power for electric vehicle charging stations

  • Can use these smart nodes to track lost dogs

  • Can locate garbage bins which have been moved or alert city waste services when public trash or recycle bins need to be emptied

  • Smart cameras mounted on streetlights provide an array of security features: the ability to scan license plates and detect stolen vehicles; the ability to use facial recognition software to identify criminals, witnesses or locate missing children; can incorporate analytics to detect suspicious activity;

  • Audible sensors can turn sounds of breaking glass, accidents or gunshots into immediate location-based alarms sent to law enforcement and ambulance services

  • Wearables worn by people can summon help from healthcare providers, which can alert first responders if a person is experiencing a medical episode and needs immediate emergency assistance

Innovative Solutions are Helping Municipalities Overcome Significant Budget Constraints

In 2015, the City of Los Angeles became the first city in the world to deploy 100 Philips Smart Poles which are connected LED streetlights with integrated 4G LTE wireless telecommunications technology by Ericsson. This innovative collaboration between Philips and Ericsson helps deliver the benefits of smart streetlighting networks while also hoping to overcome existing and developing data transfer hurdles as cities embark on their journey towards digitalization.  In the first year, LA planned to install 100 Smart Poles with an additional 500 more following the initial phase.  LA has about 215,000 streetlights, including 400 different models placed over 7,500 miles of roadway.  Operations and maintenance costs make LEDs attractive, but the financial costs of overhauling the entire system are high and are often considered less important when compared to education, crime and homelessness.  The fact that the city will receive $1200 per year for each Smart Pole has made this option very attractive to the city, and other cities should consider this option if obstruction continues for deploying smart streetlighting.  If all 215,000 Smart Poles were deployed, the city would generate 258 million dollars in revenue per year.

With cellular data traffic expected to grow 9 times by 2020, according to the Ericsson Mobility Report, current infrastructure needs major overhauling in order to keep up with growing demands.  Philips Smart Poles are enabling seamless mobile wireless 4G/LTE connectivity and were specifically designed and tested to accept FCC licensed wireless mobile network operator equipment. This enables an alternative deployment methodology for 4G LTE broadband services which will connect each pole through a fiber link to its core network, and as a result, operators can improve data coverage and capacity so there are no more signal dropouts for users in dense urban areas.

Some streetlight vendors are also offering digital billboards as part of their systems. These LED displays can be used for special messaging for events, traffic detours and emergency situations such as amber alerts, but during most situations can be rented out as billboards for advertising purposes and turn streetlights into revenue generators.  Soon, we will probably even see targeted advertising using geolocation-based technology and smartphones or even facial recognition.  Other revenue generators could include linking smartpay applications for parking and automated parking violation enforcement, and a distributed electric vehicle charging infrastructure where cities can put electric vehicle parking spots near streetlight poles and provide charging services.

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