The world’s cities are thick with streetlights. By lighting a city’s highways, streets, parks and other common areas, public lighting is often one of a city’s most significant demands of energy. They also place an impressively large burden on municipal budgets, representing between one-quarter to one-half of the city’s energy bill.
With the world’s population set to bring 2.5 billion more people into cities by 2050, cities are under pressure to manage municipal lighting more efficiently. This pressure led the partners of the Paris Agreement to create the Global Lighting Challenge – a race to deploy 10 billion high-efficiency, high-quality and affordable lighting products as quickly as possible.
Yes, these products include LED bulbs. It also calls on the use of sustainable and connected solutions that will offer cities far-reaching benefits than they’d achieve by just swapping out incandescent bulbs for LED ones.
Benefits that go beyond energy consumption
Connecting streetlights to the Internet of Things (IoT) offers cities incredible benefits. Currently, lighting accounts for 15% of the world’s electricity consumption – more than the electricity generated by all the nuclear power stations in the world. If the world’s cities universally adopt LED bulbs, this share can be reduced to 8%.
Cities can take advantage of further reductions with smart LED streetlights that automatically dim when no pedestrians or vehicles are present. Cities can also curb costs associated with public lighting – be it reduced electricity bills, the need to purchase and replace bulbs less frequently, and more.
Aside from environmental benefits, smart lighting can have a positive impact on society and individuals in a variety of ways. In Los Angeles, for example, smart streetlights have helped reduce crime rates by more than 10% for offenses related to vehicle theft, burglary, and vandalism.
A platform to accelerate smart cities
Smart lighting systems provide a perfect network to connect other IoT devices and applications, accelerating the build-out of smart cities. Their ubiquitous nature makes them a convenient path to collect data and deliver information and services to and from other connected devices, including smart garbage cans, smart parking lots and more.
The benefits of which can create a mesh of coordinated services across municipal departments, which can eliminate departmental silos, increase operational efficiencies, create new jobs and improve the quality of life for residents.
Barcelona: A case study
In 2012, Barcelona implemented the Barcelona Lighting Masterplan that used smart technologies to enhance the efficiency and utility of public lighting. Within two years of the project’s start, the city had transitioned 1,100 lights to LED lampposts that the city controlled remotely.
Equipped with sensors, these smart streetlights further conserved energy by diming when streets were empty. The sensors also collected data on air quality, relaying information to city agencies and the public. Further, the smart streetlights became part of the city’s WiFi network, providing consistent, free Internet access for people throughout the city.
As a result of Barcelona’s efforts, the city achieved 30% savings in energy consumption and an equivalent return on investment of €4.5 million per year within five years.
As seen in Barcelona, the benefits of IoT and connected streetlights are great. But, they are only just being realized. For cities to reach their full potential, they need to carefully consider and test the security of these new technologies and put in place secure gateways so to protect citizen privacy and safety.