If we can’t offer IoT as a common standard for control and monitoring of ALL devices from a central console with shared sensors and integrated drivers today, we will lose our opportunity to do so for at least a generation
As cities grow and modernise, smart lighting for cities is an obvious way to improve the city. It is easy to get at least a 50 percent energy savings just by switching from traditional incandescent streetlights to LED lights. With LED streetlights, there is now an opportunity to add intelligence to the lights to further increase their value while further decreasing energy consumption and building a framework for smart cities, simply by adding controls and sensors. However, as history has taught us with other connected technologies, we need to do it right.
You Need a Smart Ecosystem
Several years ago, I decided I wanted a smart home. I connected everything I could to the internet; the thermostat, the garage door, ceilings fan and, of course, my lights. My friends were thoroughly impressed but my wife felt it was more work, although she did appreciate the data that many of the devices provided, such as daily energy consumption summaries.
Shortly after coming home late from a business trip, it hit me; my wife was right. After arriving home late at night and struggling to open the garage door app, then opening one of the lighting apps, then another app, and another, I realised the problem. None of my smart devices were really that smart because they couldn’t talk to each other; they were not interoperable. Although each device was part of a standard (Bluetooth, ZigBee, Z Wave, etc.), the standards didn’t communicate with each other. The devices on their own were useful but not in an ecosystem of IoT devices.
We need hubs that can act as single point of communication and coordination, with a single mobile app to control everything and aggregate the data from each device. What the smart home community has learned can be applied to outdoor smart lighting in smart cities; the learning curve needs to begin with the controls themselves.
The Elements of Smart Streetlighting
You have to start with the hardware. The single piece of hardware lacking in my smart home is a multifunctional, shared sensor. In outdoor lighting, a single sensor could be used for motion detection and light measurements to control the streetlight. More importantly, that sensor should take that same data and use it in other applications, such as detecting motion to control system logs that can track traffic patterns. Those patterns could be used for security, traffic control, parking control, and infrastructure among other things. End users can then monetise their data. Imagine a property management company being able to charge different rates for different store locations using real-life shopper tracking data.
The second piece of hardware that needs to be prioritised is the LED driver. Today, the common approach to smart, wireless controls, is simply adding in an RF radio into the light. While this approach works, it doesn’t add much value beyond turning the lights on/off. The better approach is to make the LED driver smart and integrate the transceiver into the driver. This integration not only saves money but provides much more control and diagnostic data.
Next, you need a central, wireless control system that does more than managing and monitoring streetlights but manages other parts of the city’s infrastructure as well. Using traffic data collected from the streetlight sensors, for example, could control traffic patterns better. Add in environmental factors (weather, pollution, construction, etc.) and now the control system can take that intelligence and adjust traffic flow accordingly.
Finally, all the technologies in a smart city must be interoperable. Lighting has its own standards, such as DALI and TALQ, but no other industry uses those. It is critical to find common ground, so the traffic lights talk to the environmental sensors and the streetlights and every other aspect of the smart city infrastructure.
Smart Streetlights in Action
A good example of smart street lighting done right is the Dutch island of Texel. Texel wanted to become a zero-energy community. By re-creating its outdoor lighting infrastructure using a centralised, cloud-based control system and wireless controllers they reduced energy costs by 65 percent. By managing public lighting, Texel was able to cut costs, promote public safety, and maintain the quality of life on Texel, including a dazzling night sky. Texel is the biggest intelligent street lighting infrastructure in Europe, and its IoT platform paves the way for future integration.
Smart outdoor lighting faces the same challenges that other technologies have faced. Common wireless standards are needed to simplify device and light management. It’s not unheard of for a streetlight to last 20-30 years or more. If we cannot offer IoT as a common standard for control and monitoring of ALL devices from a central console with shared sensors and integrated drivers today, we will lose our opportunity to do so for at least a generation.
Jeremy Ludyjan is Senior Director, Field Marketing, for Fulham Co., Inc. Jeremy has more than 20 years of experience in semiconductors and lighting, and is Lighting Certified as well as an active member of the Illuminating Engineering Society. Jeremy holds a degree in Business Administration in International Business from Texas Wesleyan University.
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