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Smart streetlights enable connected city experience

Posted: 13 Jan 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Philips? smart streetlight? smart city? Internet of Things? LTE?

The CIO of San Jose, Vijay Sammeta, agreed. He characterised smart cities as a 'Wild West' where it's time to move from demonstration projects to the more difficult job of real deployments.

"Smart cities have reawakened the concept of R&D in government but these things all take time, money and energy so they have to be aligned to our priorities," said Sammeta.

For example San Jose just completed a year-long pilot project with Intel that involved installing ten air-quality sensors around the city. "We do want to take a look at more of these projects...but I picture a street light pole with so many things strapped to it its leaning over," he said.

So far neither governments nor vendors know what sensors cities need, how they should be certified or how to create, pay for and run a central data repository spanning multiple data sets. Multiple data sets are usually more interesting than just one but "it gets more complicated the more vendors that are involved," Sammeta said.

LED streetlights

Some of the math in San Jose's design guide for LED streetlights. (Image: City of San Jose)

In a pilot that shows an alternative approach, San Jose is making real-time data on the phasing of its traffic signals available to auto makers. Car companies get a chance to create services that supplement GPS maps, while cities and drivers find ways to reduce congestion.

L.A. ultimately plans to install 400-600 smart poles and is pondering what other sensors they might carry. The city is considering adding charging stations for electric vehicles to some of them.

"We are working with multiple manufacturers, discussing ideas such as sensors for temperature, carbon dioxide, it could be anything, maybe earthquake sensors cameras for crime or parking availability," said Ed Ebrahimian who runs L.A.'s bureau of streetlights. "I may only need 200-300 sensors because they don't have to be on every pole but one every three to five blocks, the beauty is we will already have the communications in place," he said.

Teri Killgore, civic innovation manager in the city of San Jose, agrees. "It's the next great frontier for smart city applications," she said.

First steps: Smart meters, LED monitors

Smart metres in the poles are key to enabling future additions, said Killgore of San Jose. The local public utility commission currently has a narrow definition of what can attach to a streetlight to make sure third parties are not unfairly getting power at the same low rate as the city.

The San Jose poles use the utility's existing exterior smart meter. But the utility, PG&E, is working on a version that will fit into the pole and keep it safe from hackers.

"When we want to add environmental sensors or cameras, we will be able to install them more easily without rewiring circuits," Killgore said.

"The business case based on energy savings for converting to LED streetlights is well established, but the benefits of networking (to provide traffic monitoring or air-quality sensors, and etc.) are less well founded and more complex, often crossing city departments," said Woods, the research director at Navigant.

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