Definition

smart streetlight

Contributor(s): Sarah Lewis

A smart streetlight is a public lighting fixture that incorporates technology, such as cameras and sensors, to introduce real-time monitoring functionalities. Also referred to as adaptive or intelligent street lighting, this type of lighting system is recognized as one component in the development of smart cities. The US Federal Highway Administration has published guidelines on how government agencies can implement smart streetlights.

How smart streetlights work

The technology behind smart streetlights can vary depending on its features and requirements, but typically involves a combination of cameras and sensors. When implemented on standard streetlights, these devices can detect movement that enables dynamic lighting and dimming. It also allows neighboring fixtures to communicate with each other. If a pedestrian or car is detected, all surrounding lights will brighten until movement is no longer captured.

Additional capabilities of smart streetlights may require more technology such as image sensors, sound sensors, speakers, weather and water detection sensors and wireless transmitters.

Capabilities of a smart streelight
Capabilities of a smart streelight

After smart streetlights are installed, most vendors offer software that can help cities monitor and manage the technology. This software can also be used to gather any data collected by the streetlights and adjust its features, such as dimming time.

Features of smart streetlights

While the features of smart streetlights depend on the specific technology used by city planners, a few examples of common functionality includes:

  • Dynamic lighting controls based on movement detection.
  • Environmental and weather monitoring.
  • Digital signage that can update as needed, such as parking regulations or accident alerts.
  • Parking management, such as alerting officials of illegally parked vehicles or drivers of open spaces.
  • Extended cellular and wireless communications.
  • Traffic management through real time data feeds that track congestion and speed.
  • Automatic emergency response, in the event of a car crash or crime.

Advantages and disadvantages

Implementing smart streetlight systems can introduce the following benefits:

  • Reduced energy cost and usage with flexible dimming controls.
  • Increased pedestrian satisfaction through improved safety measures.
  • Lowered repair and maintenance costs with the monitoring software.
  • Reduced carbon emissions and light pollution.
  • Increased lamp life and shorter response times to outages.
  • Improved architectural planning based on real traffic patterns and insights.

However, while there is value in upgrading lighting networks, there are a few challenges. The first is that although smart streetlights save money over time, the initial investment is a large one. Another barrier is the lack of consumer knowledge surrounding the features and benefits of smart streetlights. Lastly, implementing smart streetlights requires compliance with federal and utility regulations.

This was last updated in September 2019

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