general electric smart lighting

Lighting the road to smart cities and sustainability

Author | Esther Fuldauer

LEDs need less energy, that’s a fact. When updated to LED, street lighting bills go down by 50%-70%, and as the price and quality of LED lighting continue to improve, costs will lower and lower. At the same time, smart lighting has been recognized as one of the most actionable and ready-to-implement technologies for cities to transition to a low-carbon economy and peak emissions in the next decade.

Lamp posts are the ideal infrastructure for mounting smart city systems. When used for networking and monitoring, they become a sensor platform, growing efficiency even further and providing vital data for a myriad of urban solutions.

Remote on-off control, dimming, and scheduling functions are quick wins of connected street lighting, with massive impact on energy savings and maintenance, and can be achieved through low-cost connectivity such as PLC or RF Mesh. More advanced lighting features, such as color controls, adaptive lighting, and emergency response, require faster and more secure cellular networks.

Cellular networks allow for more robust and faster connections with lower latency, which would be needed for more critical smart city solutions. Smart street lighting with 4G LTE and 5G can provide a platform for WIFI, HD Video streaming, gunshot detection, air quality monitoring, traffic management, and smart parking.

Smart street lighting as a platform

Public lighting represents one of the most excellent powered grids spread across towns and cities throughout the globe. It’s like the nervous system of a city connecting over 360 million streetlights worldwide with access to power.

No wonder they are becoming a very sought-after asset of the city, enabling an IoT platform that can serve many current and future urban solutions — investing now in LED lighting makes a sound move for any city’s aspiring to become smart. The implementation pays for itself thanks to the energy and efficiency savings that the new lamps generate and the benefits for increasing citizens’ security, efficiency, reductions in GHG emissions, and general well-being.

Some of the solutions that can currently be deployed together with smart street lighting upgrade include:

  • broadband connectivity
  • traffic light controls
  • traffic management
  • smart parking
  • electric vehicle charging stations
  • air quality and noise monitoring
  • public safety through HD video
  • pedestrian footfall sensing

Some cities with smart street lighting

Barcelona: Barcelona published its first Lighting Masterplan in 2012, which included the use of smart LED lamp posts. They are currently undertaking the installation of 10.000 LED street lamps across all districts. The lights contain sensors that detect movement and dim to save energy when no one is around. The smart lamp posts are remotely managed and also provide free Wi-Fi across the city and collect air and noise pollution data.

Copenhagen: The city’s lighting master plan was approved in 2014 and has implemented 20.000 LED street lamps through which it has improved energy efficiency with savings of approximately 65%. Through remote lighting management and control, they dim the lights when they are not needed or increase their strength, providing added safety when cyclists or pedestrians pass by.

copenhagen smart lighting

Chicago: The city launched its smart lighting program in 2017. They have projected to install 270,000 LED street lamps over four years. Chicago estimates that it will save around $10 million each year. The higher quality light provided by LED technology will improve visibility and safety. The project includes a monitoring and control system that will improve maintenance with real-time updates when outages occur.

London: The City of London, known as the Square Mile, is in the heart of Greater London UK. It is a world-leading center for business. Its narrow streets and tall buildings make it difficult to have connectivity. The city chose to create a low spectrum RF mesh network, where each lamp post is connected through an IP and acts as a node. The conversion of about 12,500 streetlights to LED by 2020 is expected to result in energy savings of at least 70% and reduced CO2 emissions an maintenance costs.

Energy usage is expected to grow by 35% in 2030. Lighting accounts for 19% of the total global usage and 30-50% of a city’s energy bill, so smart street lighting represents an excellent opportunity for improvement; by reducing the need for energy, we lower our impact over the environment and climate change.

By having efficient management and maintenance of street lighting, and together with security applications, such as noise, pedestrian, gunshot detection, and HD video streets become safer, and cities can lower their crime rate.

Applications like traffic management and smart parking can lower congestion adding even more to the city’s sustainability. All and all, smart street lighting offers advantages from day one, and we’ll see more of these networks deployed in cities around the world.

Images | Luci Association, GE, Tvilight