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Massachusetts Cities Deploy Smart Streetlight Network-as-a-Service

Randolph and Fitchburg, Mass., will have a platform for networked streetlighting -- and the option to self-fund additional smart city applications in the future.

City leaders looking to the Internet of Things are starting with the basics: Randolph and Fitchburg, Mass., are deploying a smart streetlighting network-as-a-service that will allow them to remotely control, monitor and manage their streetlights while simultaneously building infrastructure that could someday support connectivity for smart city components.

Under a contract with Silver Spring Networks, the deployments build on the company's recent announcement that it was selected by Florida Power & Light (FPL) for what is believed to be the largest networked streetlights project -- that will connect nearly half a million streetlights across Miami and south Florida -- in the world, according to a press release.

“We're excited that Randolph and Fitchburg are joining the roster of cities including Chicago, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Miami and Paris who are deploying our critical IoT infrastructure,” said Brandon Davito, a vice president at Silver Spring Networks, in an email to Government Technology. “Through our network-as-service offering, they will have a platform for networked streetlighting and the option to 'self-fund' additional smart city applications in the future, at no risk to them."

According to data released earlier this year, there are expected to be more than 40 million network-controlled streetlights by 2019, a natural jumping-off point for IoT technology like smart parking applications, energy metering, environmental and pollution sensors, adaptive outdoor lighting, and water management. Offerings like those from Silver Spring Networks give cities a chance to enter the world of IoT without needing to internally manage the infrastructure because network management is offered as a service by the company.

Cities like Chattanooga and Los Angeles employ similar smart streetlight technology.

“More than half the world’s population now live in dense urban areas and generate more than 80 percent of global GDP – with this trend clearly increasing,” Davito said. “The financial and environmental demands are growing, and cities are looking to technology to help alleviate cost pressures, improve sustainability, and open up future economic opportunity.”

Smart streetlights can help cities cut energy costs while simultaneously prepare for the future by establishing a framework for new Internet of Things technologies that help improve quality of life, attract new investors, and spur entrepreneurialism, he said.

And the city of Paris, for instance, will reduce energy consumption by traffic and streetlights by 30 percent over the next 10 years using its technology, Davito explained, adding that for many cities, public lighting networks can consume as much as 40 percent of a budget, so such smart lighting applications are long overdue.

“As these types of sensors come online in the billions,” he said, “cities across the world will be able to deliver a vast array of new real-time services to their citizens.”

Los Angeles has replaced 215,000 of its traditional sodium-vapor streetlights with LEDs over the past few years. The reduction to electricity costs has been huge, but it’s the smart technology that enables new possibilities for the city, said Peter Marx, chief technology officer of Los Angeles.

“Those LEDs are mesh networked, they’re connected wirelessly with each other,” Marx said. “One of the things that technology has allowed us to do is there’s a very famous tunnel that goes under the south runways at LAX, the airport. You can’t dig under runways under an airport. There’s no capacity for you to go lay down new cable or power or anything like that. It’s a very simple example, but it’s something that could never have been done before the last couple years.”

Smart streetlights allow cities to remotely monitor, maintain and manage the lights, and the technology offered by Silver Spring Networks allows cities the option to develop more integration with city services, like parking, or sensing capabilities like those demonstrated in Chicago’s Array of Things project, a network of real-time data-collecting sensors that let the city gauge things like weather, air quality and foot traffic.

Colin wrote for Government Technology and Emergency Management from 2010 through most of 2016.