Connectivity & Data
Governance and Citizen
Energy & Environment
Smart streetlighting is one of the more mature smart city applications but, when making a business case, cities must ensure they are fully informed of its broader range of benefits, says Gianni Minetti.
Smart lighting is one of the most mature smart urban applications. According to the Smart City Use Cases & Technology Adoption Report 2020 by market insights firm IoT Analytics, connected streetlights have a 68 per cent implementation rate on a worldwide basis. This does not sound too surprising, as municipalities tend to prioritise investments that bring the most value to citizens and the community – and smart lighting is definitely one of these.
However, when deploying a smart application, it can be difficult to separate the hype from the reality and make a meaningful business case. We all know LED-based and remotely managed streetlights consume less power, contribute to climate change mitigation, and generally make cities safer, liveable and more attractive places. But lots of in-depth questions are asked during our conversations with city and utility managers, and the most recurring one is quite simple: how much money can I save with smart lighting?
Streetlighting accounts, on average, for 40 per cent of a city’s electricity bill. Savings due to smart technologies depend on a number of variables, but usually they are worth the case.
The municipality of Gijon in Spain deployed a public and interoperable IoT infrastructure in 2016. Streetlighting was the first urban application to be run on it, with an initial installation of 1,150 LED luminaires being monitored and actioned by our software management platform. The economic saving for city coffers was assessed at around €100,000 a year.
Another interesting example is the Tesserete‐Canobbio bike trail in Ticino, Switzerland, where local utility AEM upgraded existing luminaires to LED technologies, connected them to a wireless network and interfaced every lamp with a motion sensor. This enabled lights to be automatically switched on and set to 100 per cent only when cyclists or pedestrians pass by. As a result, annual operating hours along the trail reduced from 4,300 to 600, and average costs decreased from 11.19 to 1.56 Swiss francs per light point.
Smart lighting investments can pay for themselves and even turn into a revenue generation opportunity
Do you fear smart lighting makes the management, maintenance and repair of luminaires more complex and expensive? No, it is exactly the opposite. By having all light points connected to the same network, cities can fully monitor and operate luminaires remotely, leveraging a single software platform.
Proactive to real-time detection of luminaire failures or out-of-the ordinary behaviours becomes possible, and technicians can be sent out only when and where needed, arriving on site already informed of and equipped to address the specific issue. As well as reduced costs and more streamlined operations, this also improves the quality of service and citizens’ satisfaction.
Smart lighting investments can pay for themselves and even turn into a revenue generation opportunity. In 2016, the city council of San Leandro in California, USA, started its smart journey by replacing around 5,000 streetlights with LED lamps and implementing a wireless IoT network with a centralised management and control system. Other applications and services were added over time to the network, such as integrated parking, public wireless internet and traffic video surveillance.
Upon the initial spending of $5.2 million for energy- and water-saving equipment, it was calculated that the investment would generate $8 million savings over 15 years through reductions in energy and water use, and $1.5 million in positive cashflow over that time.
When smart lighting is built on an open, interoperable and cybersecure network, cities can scale-up their efforts and be assured the correct foundations are in place for present and future growth
This happens when urban networks are designed as interoperable infrastructures, able to host multiple applications and launch public-private collaborations. Moreover, they can create viable opportunities to monetise the data they generate. Imagine the possibility of transforming data generated by luminaires and environmental sensors into “info-tokens” to be traded in secure marketplaces. Cities could turn their investment into revenue since start-ups or local businesses might be interested in buying those data streams to design innovative applications and services.
Smart lighting can be highly beneficial to cities and address several critical challenges from sustainable development and the impact of climate change to public safety and urban attractiveness. Short-term, tangible benefits such as energy- and money-savings can justify the outlay, but much more can be achieved if implementing smart systems with a long-term vision and strategy.
Every city is unique. Sometimes it is possible to draft a comprehensive plan to redesign applications and assets on the entire urban territory, sometimes a step-by-step approach is required to balance local priorities with available resources.
Start-ups or local businesses might be interested in buying the data streams to design innovative applications and services
Our experience tells a forward-looking smart strategy is always to be recommended. When smart lighting is built on an open, interoperable and cybersecure network, cities can scale-up their efforts and be assured the correct foundations are in place for present and future growth. Regardless of the starting point, the planning for tomorrow should start today, and smart lighting can be the springboard to urban innovation.
To find out more about the benefits of smart lighting, download the Insight Report, Smart Lighting: how switched on are you?
SmartCitiesWorld and Paradox Engineering are also hosting a webinar on smart lighting on 1 July 2021. To sign up, go to Smart City: what’s behind the success of Smart Lighting?