Parking downtown is a pain, but not in the intelligent city of the future. Networked LED street lights—the neurological system of the interconnected metropolis—will direct drivers to available spaces with the help of built-in image sensors and wireless transceivers.
The same street light in San Francisco could serve as a seismic sensor and act as an indicator beacon in the event of an earthquake. Warnings or instructions could be carried across a public-address speaker concealed within the light post, as well. A push-to-talk system, meanwhile, could prove invaluable in an emergency response situation.
LED street lights will be a critical part of high- performing networks that give cities a real-time view of what’s going on. The combination of LEDs and analytics essentially puts a computer where a light bulb was. We are transforming street lights into the analytical brain of urban life, and, as a result, lighting is now a high-tech infrastructure business—a gateway for energy management solutions. In fact, some are already discovering what’s possible, including the city of San Diego—now using wireless controls to move toward a metered (rather than flat-rate) tariff for its street light energy usage with its local utility company. The technology provides accurate energy metering and usage information, allowing the city to pay only for what it uses.
Presently, LED penetration in roadway lighting is less than 10 percent across the U.S., but that’s about to change, says the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In its latest energy savings forecast, the DOE predicts an 83-percent LED market share by 2020 in street/roadway lighting and an almost 100-percent share by 2030. Add in intelligent capabilities, and the possibilities for LED street lights are endless. From parking and traffic to temperatures, humidity, precipitation, ozone levels and pollution, street lights are positioned to be the key real estate that indicates how certain attributes of a city are performing.
The bottom line is that cities are beginning to understand that intelligent street lighting can make a big difference—saving money, making money, enhancing citizen satisfaction and, ultimately, leaving a lasting impact.