As a child, we usually got lost in the array of uniform streetlights while travelling on a dark highway road. And why wouldn't we - it is beautiful, symmetrical, and extremely efficient. In modern cities, we cannot imagine travelling through a road at night without streetlights. Well, the streetlights just got smarter and more efficient, and they will be an important part of future's smart cities!
For centuries, street lamps have had only one purpose – to illuminate the street in the dark. The bulbs used in these lamps are high in energy consumption. These bulbs generate light when the filament of wire is heated to a very high temperature. In fact, they are the same design bulbs made by Thomas Edison in 1879.
It turns out, there have been no new designs since that time.
LED Bulbs and how they work
With time bulbs that go into the street lamps changed, and now we have LED bulbs. These bulbs consume 75% less energy as compared to traditional bulbs. LED stands for light-emitting diode. These bulbs produce light when they are connected to an electric source. The diode is a semiconducting material, and it emits photons (light) when connected to a source of electric current.
Now there is another variant of these LED bulbs in the market. These bulbs won’t just provide light, but they may even be able to find you a parking space, predict the weather and many such things in the future. These are called “smart” LED lights.
Smart LED Lights – the Gamechanger
Smart LED lights can be controlled by Apple and Android phones. A user can operate these lights on tablets and smartphones through WiFi and Bluetooth. This control over the smart light from your phone opens up a lot of possibilities.
A user can dim the light as per their convenience, turn it off from the comfort of your bed, already switch on lights before reaching a place etc.
LED Lights' multiple benefits
The versatility doesn’t end here; smart LEDs can work on command from Alexa on Amazon Echo, Google Assistant on Google Home Siri on Apple HomePod, and Cortana on Harman Kardon- Microsoft Invoke.
The light poles of yesteryear provided the only illumination; modern-day light poles can serve as a multifunctional technology, capable of monitoring everything from crime to parking to weather.
Why using Smart LED Lights is futuristic
City planners are planning on building smart cities, equipped with everything needed for survival and much more. If we are making smart houses, smart cars, then why not smart street lamps too?
LEDs have a longer life span than incandescent bulbs. They use 5o% less electricity and don’t require any maintenance. While incandescent bulbs covert 80% into heat and only 20% into light. LEDs use 100% of the electrical energy to produce light. This is why, according to a market research firm Million Insights, the LED market is expected to rise to $108 billion by 2025.
Sharing and Saving Smartly
According to the Marketing Director for Network Lighting Solutions, Charles Nobles, streetlights attribute to as much as 40% of a city’s energy load.
Switching to smart LEDs is something that will help our environment and save some bucks in the budgets. In the U.S., more than 49 million LEDs were installed, and this saved as much as $675 million on the annual energy cost in 2012.
Many smart cities have started using these smart lamps. These lamps save billions of dollars in energy. With the ever-increasing population, many of the cities mayors, council members and city authorities are working to reduce the carbon footprint in their cities.
Cities like Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Cleveland have already replaced traditional street lights using incandescent bulbs with these LEDs. One day street lights are predicted to control traffic, find parking, and guide people during emergencies by flashing in the direction of the exit by an Intel white paper.
Smart LED lights and the coin's other side
With all these fantastic features which can make cities more efficient and reduce their carbon print, there are some setbacks. San Diego began a $30 million “Smart Streetlight” program a while ago. With the help of this programme, the police department of San Diego gained direct access to the network to solve crimes.
Smart street lighting enables city officials to increase and decrease street lighting illumination levels at different times of the day or night in response to weather events.
This, however, did not sit well with some people. A teacher of data and society at the University of Edinburgh, Morgan Curie said, “The policies and laws should have been in place before the street lamps were in the ground, instead of legislation catching up to technological capacity.”
Surveillance in the name of Smart Cities?
It was also said that this control over the smart streetlights by the police department will be an example of how data collection systems are easily retooled as a surveillance system. This increases the state and police control over the city.
The poles of these street lights are also proposed to be used for advertisements. As a result, 5G providers will be allowed to hang their equipment on these poles by paying a monthly fee. Even though these perks are offered, imagine looking at a street lamp and seeing multiple cameras and ads and equipment hanging on it. It will be a complete mess!
Aside from this, Northern California towns and cities are also worried about the health of the citizens and are therefore issuing an order to exclude 5G towers from residential areas.
Despite all of this, smart streetlights are becoming the backbone of smart cities all over the world. Over 11 million connected street lights are developing for use. It won’t take that long before all the street lights are replaced with smart street lights.