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Bright Future Seen for Smart LED Streetlight Projects

By the decade’s end, cities around the world will have installed millions of intelligent and connected lights.

As LED lighting continues to become more affordable, cities around the world have begun investigating the benefits of switching from traditional street lighting to the far more energy-efficient technology. Such a transition also provides a platform for other innovations beyond merely lighting up dark places. An interconnected network of smart streetlights can serve a city by monitoring traffic and weather, providing real-time video, audio and Wi-Fi, broadcasting city announcements or advertisements, directing event parking or illuminating evacuation routes in an emergency.

Recent data from ABI Research suggests that by 2019 there will be some 40 million network-controlled streetlights in cities around the world.

“Alongside the energy savings, lifespan, and quality of light improvements that LEDs offer, the enhanced controllability of this technology through the adoption of intelligent networking solutions has the ability to revolutionize the way cities utilize their street lighting infrastructure in order to deliver an attractive, sustainable, and safer living space,” according to ABI Research Analyst Andrew Zignani.

In the U.S., cities such as Houston, Los Angeles and Chattanooga, Tenn., are lighting the way forward. Chattanooga has been using smart streetlights to curb gang violence and enhance public safety. Last summer, Houston mayor Annise Parker announced the city will be replacing all 165,000 of its incandescent and sodium lights with high-efficiency LEDs. Los Angeles has been in the midst of a $57 million, 215,000 light replacement project and other large cities have similar projects underway. According to smart streetlight manufacturer Silver Springs Networks, Los Angeles is now consuming 63 percent less energy annually and saves more than $53 million thanks to the 145,000 lights already converted to LED.

In late December, the city of Madrid and Philips Lighting announced they had partnered for the world’s largest smart streetlight project. The city will replace or retrofit 225,000 streetlights with Philips’ connected LEDs. The projected 44 percent energy savings will be used to finance the project.

“This will be the biggest technological renewal ever seen in Madrid City,” Mayor Ana Botella said in a statement. “A change that will allow achieving some important goals. Namely, reducing the city’s energy consumption thanks to energy efficient luminaires, extending the lifespan of the city lighting and controlling light pollution by enabling the regulation of the intensity of light when and where it’s needed. The new lighting installation allows us to make significant progress towards becoming a smart city, which is more sustainable and, in conclusion, a more livable city.”

Many city leaders see smart streetlights as a win-win in terms of saving much needed revenue by reducing energy costs and by ultimately being better environmental stewards. Cities including San Diego and Detroit are at work on smaller-scale projects that will save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, reports the Smart Cities Council.

Smart streetlights also serve as a logical starting point for municipalities looking to get into the smart cities game because, as Government Technology senior editor Tod Newcombe writes, “LEDs can do more than just save costs. They also can be a platform for a host of technologies that can monitor what is going on in the vicinity of the light pole. Link these so-called intelligent street lights into a network, and you have the makings of a smart city.”

If ABI Research’s predicted growth in smart streetlights proves correct it will be because of the aforementioned cities, as well as places like Newark, N.J., Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, and San Jose, Calif. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that LEDs may make our food taste better, too.