Navigant Research Blog

Cities Using Smart Street Lighting as a Platform for Smart City Applications

— May 22, 2017

Smart street lighting is increasingly being recognized by city leaders as the first step toward the development of a smart city. Connected lighting systems enable immediate and significant energy savings through LEDs and controls while also providing a potential backbone network for cities to deploy additional smart city applications and services in a wide range of sectors. Growing numbers of pilot and large-scale projects are demonstrating the value of using a smart street lighting network as a broader platform for innovation.

From Networked Controls to a Smart City Platform

Sensors and other technologies can be added to a smart street lighting network to create a multitude of new city services, including gunshot detection, air quality monitoring, traffic management, and smart parking, among others. The types of smart city applications being used by cities on the smart street lighting platform vary tremendously by project. Security and public safety are some of the key applications currently being implemented in North America. As an example, Chattanooga, Tennessee is using smart LED street lights that can be remotely flashed to break up gang activity. And two other cities, Fresno, California and Peoria, Illinois, are using gunshot detection technology on their smart street lights to enable law enforcement to respond more quickly to shooting events. In Europe, several key projects are using lighting networks to improve pedestrian, bicyclist, and traffic management. Meanwhile, Asia Pacific is developing numerous projects using environmental sensors for air quality monitoring to address the heavy pollution levels in many of the congested cities in the region.

Boundless Opportunity

These extended capabilities provided by a smart street lighting platform enable cities to make further cost savings and add new and valuable city services. They also offer the potential for added revenue streams related to the lampposts. For example, in Los Angeles, smart poles are being installed with 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology to improve mobile phone coverage. The city is generating revenue by renting the poles to cell carriers.

The practice of utilizing smart street lighting networks as a platform for other smart city applications is still in its early stages. However, with several large deployments (e.g., in San Diego and Copenhagen) and an array of pilot projects currently underway, an increasing number of cities are beginning to understand the nearly unlimited potential that information and communication technology (ICT) can offer in improving city service delivery and management. For more information and analysis on this topic, keep an eye out for Navigant Research’s forthcoming report, Smart Street Lighting for Smart Cities.

 

Smart Street Lights a Key Platform for Smart City Infrastructure

— December 2, 2016

The city lamppost is increasingly recognized as a valuable asset that can support a range of smart city applications beyond smart street lighting. There are significant benefits to be had from smart lighting deployments, considering that networked LED street lights can offer 65%-75% energy savings for cities. However, the full benefit of the lamppost is reached when it can act as infrastructure for multiple smart city applications. These additional applications can include air quality monitoring, security alerts, parking and traffic management, electronic signage, mesh Wi-Fi services, and more.

New York-based startup Totem Power recently unveiled its Totem platform for smart city projects, which combines communications infrastructure with energy infrastructure. The company’s prototype lamppost platform is powered by solar energy and supplemented by battery storage to provide capabilities such as Wi-Fi, 4G communications, and EV charging, in addition to traditional smart street lighting services. The first Totem street light model is expected to be released in summer 2017.

Totem Power’s Smart City Platform

Smart Lighting

(Source: Totem Power, Inc.)

Established Suppliers Utilizing Street Lights as a Platform

There is also an increasing recognition by more established players in the market that smart street lighting can serve as the foundational infrastructure for a variety of smart city technology deployments. Panasonic recently entered into a partnership with LED streetlight provider Schréder to integrate its sensors, cameras, and software applications into the company’s luminaires in an effort to transform existing lighting infrastructure into an integrated smart city platform.

Siemens is planning a new smart parking system both within existing smart street lighting infrastructure and in combination with traffic management applications. In addition to detecting open parking spots, Siemens’ overhead radar sensors (in development) are expected to measure speed and traffic conditions, detect parking violations, and detect the flow of pedestrians. Sensity (acquired by Verizon in September 2016) is also combining smart street lighting with other applications, namely with its NetSense smart parking solution. This integrated application enables owners and parking operators to increase parking revenue while simultaneously achieving additional cost savings associated with LED lighting. Established smart street lighting provider Silver Spring Networks has also been active in using street lights as a platform.

Benefits Too Large to Ignore

Using smart street lighting as a platform for other smart city applications provides benefits to both cities and suppliers. Cities can save on infrastructure costs through the integration of several applications within existing street light infrastructure, resulting in lower average project costs (per application) and additional valuable services being provided to its citizens. This approach offers the potential for added revenue streams (for both cities and suppliers) related to the lampposts. Suppliers offering the delivery of multiple services through street light infrastructure have the potential to increase revenue through recurring software fees, since services such as advanced analytics will be increasingly important under a multiple service model.

Cities are increasingly demanding services and products that can be shared across departments, not in siloes. Suppliers offering a variety of services that can be delivered cost-effectively through existing street light infrastructure are likely to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

 

Street Lights Are the New Smartphones

— May 11, 2016

BulbsJust as cell phones have evolved into multifunctional digital information devices, the once humble street light is becoming a hub for monitoring a variety of urban activities and sharing data with networks.

Navigant Research identified this trend in its 2015 Smart Street Management report, stating that, “Smart street lighting is becoming one of the most attractive solutions for cities looking for an immediate effect on energy consumption and operational costs while also laying a foundation for a broader range of applications.”

As street lights are being upgraded to more efficient LEDs, pole owners are seizing the opportunity to add networking capabilities, sensors, cameras, and power management intelligence to leverage the lights’ distributed electrified reach to provide a variety of services across cities. The convergence of city management technologies with street lights was on display throughout the recent Intertraffic conference in Amsterdam.

Intertraffic Conference

Examples highlighted at Intertraffic included Streetline, of San Mateo, California, which is working with Cisco on using cameras fixed to street lights as a less expensive alternative to sensors to predict parking availability. According to Kurt Buechler, Streetline’s senior vice president, the cameras cost around $100 each and are connected to a cloud service that performs analysis on the collected data. Cisco is also working on integrating cameras and Internet of Things technologies to street lights in the Netherlands via its IT networks.

Also at Intertraffic, Spain’s Circontrol announced its Trilogy offering, which combines lighting, smart parking detection, and indicators that show parking availability. Circontrol also displayed an integrated parking facility energy management system that uniquely incorporates electric vehicle (EV) charging management. Intelligent transportation systems vendor Q-Free is combining its air quality monitoring technology with street lights in Medway, England.

EV Influence

Other companies taking advantage of the ubiquitous presence of powered street lights include BMW, which adds EV charging capabilities through its Light and Charge initiative. In the city of San Jose, California, the SmartPoles pilot project is using wireless technology from Ericsson and Philips’ energy efficient lighting equipment to reduce costs while providing more flexible lighting management.

The convergence of smart parking, traffic management, EVs, and environmental monitoring—often using connected street lights to collect and share data—will bring much more holistic views to smart city managers looking to understand the full effect of transportation on urban life. Standards for data collection and communications protocols are quickly evolving to enable this broader view and will be of growing importance as cities look to understand and mitigate the effect of increased congestion and urbanization.

 

Panasonic-Denver Partnership Highlights Cultural Considerations in Smart City Projects

— February 22, 2016

Bangkok SkylineIn January 2016, Japan-based Panasonic and the city of Denver, Colorado announced a partnership to transform the mountain municipality into a smart city, with a focus on improvements to transportation, energy efficiency, water conservation, and public safety, among other services. The focus project of the public-private partnership is the creation of a greenfield community southwest of the Denver International Airport called Peña Station NEXT.

Using Panasonic’s CityNOW approach, the new community in Denver is being modeled on the successful development of the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town in Japan. Fujisawa is 31 miles west of Tokyo and as has a comprehensive smart city implementation across multiple applications, including smart street lights and  rooftop solar panels that power homes during the day while fuel cells and batteries are utilized at night. The community is also in walking distance to public transportation, and electric cars and bicycles are widely available for rent.

This is a significant example of how companies like Panasonic are trying to take best practices from smart city projects in Japan to North America and other markets. Other Japanese giants have also been working with North American and European cities on a range of pilots and demonstrator programs, but the Panasonic-Denver collaboration is one of the most significant commercial projects to date.

Cultural Challenges

However, the translation of experiences in Japan to the United States raises some interesting challenges. According to the Denver Post, Denver’s smart city initiatives will have several different applications compared to what took place in Fujisawa, primarily in order to account for cultural and social differences between the two countries. Camera monitors with facial recognition spike much higher privacy concerns in the United States compared to Japan; as a result, the Denver project is expected to be much less intrusive. Instead of shared cars and bicycles, the Peña Station NEXT community is likely to use shuttles with parking garages and parking lots to accommodate some personal vehicle usage. In addition, far-reaching liability concerns in the United States mean that automated street lights are also unlikely, with dimming ability being a more realistic approach. While many of the same essential technologies that were tested in Fujisawa (i.e., cameras, smart street lights) are being applied in Denver, precisely how they are going to be used is being augmented for cultural considerations.

Through the partnership with Panasonic, Denver looks to improve its greenhouse gas emissions per capita, as the city’s sprawling infrastructure all too often encourages driving as the primary means of transportation. According to a 2011 World Bank report, Denver ranks far below other more densely populated cities with 23.7 tons of CO2 emissions per person. It’s a high figure, especially when compared to other locations like New York City (8.7), San Francisco (10.1), and Boston (13.3). The American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Denver County has some of the highest rates in the country of commuters driving to work from surrounding counties.

While there are several common themes that go into making a city smart (such as digital technology, sustainability, mobility, and financing), how these factors are implemented changes drastically by jurisdiction. Initiatives that helped Japanese cities become smarter are likely to have relevance in other countries such as the United States, but some differences in implementation are needed for project success.

 

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