What if your neighborhood could warn you if a natural disaster was approaching? What if your neighborhood could collect data that improved the quality of life of its residents? While it’s not quite possible yet, the groundwork is being laid and it all depends on streetlights. Currently, a Copenhagen suburb is a test bed for a system of “smart” streetlights. These smart
streetlights use sensors to save power by illuminating when motion is detected. While they may sound a bit common, these streetlights are smart enough to tell the difference between a car, cyclist and a person. They are also smart enough to not trigger when a bird flies by, for example. The lights are powered by LEDs, each one has an IP address that can send data back to the cloud, and each one has an attached solar panel. The sensors allow the streetlights to provide the appropriate amount of illumination needed for the object underneath the light. Since a car moves faster than a pedestrian the lights can queue nearby lights to illuminate in succession. The lights can also create halos around pedestrians to provide illumination without wasting energy which can save tons of money. For example, the city of LA is currently upgrading to a similar system that will save them an estimated 10 million dollars.
Currently, there’s a smart neighborhood pilot in Lower Manhattan that uses public wifi from old pay phones and sensors from trash compactors to collect data on urban mobility and air quality. The goal for this project is to reduce pedestrian deaths and provide feedback on sustainability efforts introduced by the NYC Economic Development Corporation. While the Lower Manhattan project uses an existing network, this information could easily be collected through a smart streetlight network. This means that there’s tremendous potential for streetlights of the near future to provide wifi, to change color if there’s an emergency and to ultimately provide data that can improve the quality of lives.
Photo : By ParentingPatch – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26562576