Intelligent street lighting: the key to safe, successful and smart cities

Plugging into intelligent street lighting solutions is the smart option for towns and cities around the world to boost efficiency and increase the happiness of residents, a pair of industry experts told the region’s first IoT Lighting conference at Middle East Electricity 2019 – the region’s largest event for the power industry, which ran early March at Dubai World Trade Centre.

Peter Schwarcz, Principal Engineer at European lighting company Tungsram Group, told delegates that smart street lighting can provide the backbone for smart city infrastructure and urged city planners to switch for the benefits.

During a future-focused session titled ‘Roadmap for Smart Street Lighting’, Schwarcz said converting traditional lighting into LED and implementing a city-wide rollout of IoT luminaires can reduce municipal costs, increase efficiency and “add safety, security and comfort to residents”.

“LED lighting is established technology, we know it works; it has proven ROI and is future-proof so the luminaires can be upgraded,” said Schwarcz. He pointed out that smart street lighting can reduce accident rates and increase safety; and convincing residents of the technology’s benefits is straightforward because they have “a visual sign” in the form of motion sensors that adjust lighting levels depending on traffic.

Schwarcz cited a case study in Hungry where motion-sensored street lighting was installed in a residential area, with brightness fluctuating according to traffic volume. Residents initially voiced concerns over the constant variation in the street lighting, but municipal officials highlighted the objectives and the benefits; and the improved feelings of safety meant the sensor-controlled lighting became a “modern neighbourhood watch” technique.

Schwarcz highlighted the potential energy savings of 40 to 50 per cent, adding that smart street lighting can be a revenue generator with IoT luminaires being rented to partners such as security companies or traffic management firms to install CCTV or traffic monitoring systems.

“Income is not just something that can be monetised,” said Schwarcz – it includes the wellbeing of citizen, because the technology can lead to “crime reduction and higher utilisation of infrastructure”.

He observed that the biggest challenge was convincing stakeholders to invest in smart street lighting. “The tech is there,” he said, “but the financial model is not there yet. You cannot necessarily see the return on investment. That is what we have to solve.”

Schwarcz’s views were echoed by Pablo Servent, CEO of Smartmation, specialist in telemanagement of public and private lighting. He reported how his company had transformed Buenos Aires; the result of installing 150,000 smart luminaires in Buenos Aires was an 80 per cent increase in efficiency, a 35 per cent saving on maintenance costs, a 15 per cent energy saving – and 80 per cent resident satisfaction.

Servent outlined the challenges and opportunities of adopting smart street lighting, adding that cities need to agree with electricity suppliers to be charged by effective consumption instead of number of luminaires.

He agreed with Schwarcz that smart street lighting can be transformed from a cost centre into a revenue centre. “For example, telecommunications companies are renting lampposts to install 5G mini cells across a city. They need lots of mini cells placed across a city for the technology to work, so this is a real opportunity.”

The IoT Lighting Conference was a new addition to an expanded Knowledge Programme at Middle East Electricity 2019, which brought together 60,000 industry professionals and 1,600 local, regional and international exhibitors.

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