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What is Smart Street Lighting and What Goes into It

What is Smart Street Lighting and What Goes into It

smart street lights are changing the game

Long before there were LEDs and phosphorous lights there was the incandescent light bulb or the ark lamp. Humphry Davy, long before Thomas Edison would patent his incandescent lightbulb in 1880, Davy presented his project to the Royal Institute in Great Britain. The year was 1806 and the bulb itself was large compared to the bulbs we know today.  

Using a bank of batteries and two charcoal rods, Davy demonstrated his “lightbulb” to the Royal Institute. However, it was not until 1835 that James Bowman Lindsay demonstrated his constant electric light to the public in Scotland. Fluorescent bulbs or their predecessor, called Geissler tubes came 30 or so years before Thomas Edison finally got his mass-production ready bulb on the market. The rest, as we all know, is history.

The evolution of the lightbulb and its many applications have come a long way since 1880. Like the rest of the electronics industry, lighting continues to experience innovative booms. Consistent reevaluation of light’s uses, how it can be applied in evolving technologies, and how to make more powerful and energy-efficient bulbs or diodes paints an illuminating picture of the lighting industry.  

Lighting original design manufacturers (ODMs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and Original Component Manufacturers (OCMs) are no different than their predecessors today. Some of them have been around since the light bulb’s first commercialization. The only difference between them, aside from technological advances, is simply the year.  

What is Smart Street Lighting?

“Smart” is the key indicator of any piece of technology and how it differs from others. Smart technology will possess some degree of intelligence whether it is through sensors, transmitters, wireless capability, and others to perform a predetermined response. Microcontrollers and microprocessors are the “brains” behind these sensors that track and dictate programmed responses to certain criteria.  

The responses or reactions to a set of circumstances can vary depending on the need of the device. Smart street lighting could have several features including:  

  • Detection and alerts for weather conditions  
  • Dynamic lighting (brightness or dimming)  
  • Digital Signage and alerts in response to road work or accident announcements  
  • Traffic management through real-time feed back  
  • Automatic emergency response in the event of an accident or crime
  • Extended cellular and wireless communications  

These features are possible by the aid of additional sensors and wireless transmitters incorporated into the streetlight’s design. The implementation of software into streetlight design would aid in continuous updates and addition of features as advances continue. Meaning that once a smart streetlight is installed, expanded safety features would only be a matter of updates rather than complete reconstruction.  

The benefits of smart street lighting are a long and growing list. Energy efficiency and lowered cost are two big main attractions. The most appealing benefit is dimming capabilities combined with traffic sensors that turn off streetlights during non-traffic periods. This contrasts with most modern streetlights that come on at a specific time and brightness for a set number of hours even if there is no one around. This results in unnecessary costs, power usage, increased light pollution, and greater total carbon emissions.  

Other benefits include increased pedestrian safety, lower repair and maintenance costs, and improved architectural planning. The main reason many of these changes have not been implemented already, however, lies with its initial investment price tag. Like electric vehicles that save consumers thousands monetarily over time so too do smart streetlights. The catch is you must pay a large cost at the start to save down the line.

The move from halogen to basic LED luminaires, the simple change of a bulb, yields 80% in instant savings. Upgrading to smart streetlights would take a lot more time and investment to make an entire switch. Since street lighting costs city energy funds upwards of 40% there is a strong hesitation to commit.  

Likewise, to do so would take compliance with both federal and utility regulations which are not standard depending on the country and, more complex, states and their counties. Despite the challenges to construct a smart street lighting system, cities have already taken the steps to do so. Cities interested in establishing smart city programs see smart street lighting as being the steppingstone to successful integration of those programs.  

The City of London, specifically, the Square Mile, has recently begun its lighting project to lower energy costs, energy use, and improve public safety. While the project is still in its initial stages it has already saved 80,000kWh over the past year. The project has also laid the groundwork for other smart functionality sensors all stemming from the desire to replace the aging light system.

Other cities investing in smart streetlights include Los Angeles which received a revenue boost from SmartPoles, Chicago’s 4-year initiative to replace 270,000 city lights that could save up to $10 million USD a year, and San Diego sensor-laden smart streetlights have been installed to aid with parking management and safety. Several cities throughout Spain have invested in green street lighting with air from wind-powered Eolgreen turbine lampposts.  

It is expected that the following optimization and integration of smart street lighting will lead to future cooperation with other smart technology applications. Smart lighting technology and its systems are advancing quickly. Many of these systems provide far for applications within city infrastructure than solely lighting. The LED Street light market is expected to grow from $9 billion USD in 2021 to $19.4 billion USD by 2027.

And that is only LED street light market growth. As increasing demand for eco-friendly products to satisfy economic concerns, widespread LED adoption within cities will continue to spread. As it does, it is expected that continual additions of smart street lighting features like artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) will continue.  

Products utilized in these smart street lighting often come from at least several OCMs. Most streetlights now require OEMs to source from upwards of dozens of OCMs to finish a project. If implementing smart street lighting is already facing concerns from the monumental task of meeting both federal and utility regulations difficulty sourcing materials will further complicate this. It is best to purchase items from a global component marketplace that can on both time and cost that can be funneled back into the project itself.

To optimize your company’s supply chain, try searching for parts on Sourcengine, the world’s leading e-commerce marketplace for LEDs, single stage drivers, and more. Nexperia power products, Edison LED modules, Walsin passive components and more are available along with thousands of other suppliers. Projects that go beyond lighting and straight into intelligent lighting have thousands of options for microcontrollers and microprocessors from NXP, Renesas, STMicroelectronics, and more at their fingertips.  

If a component is out of stock or unlisted, that is an easy fix. Sourcengine’s RFQ tool puts our team of industry experts on the case. You don’t even have to leave the site.

Smart street lighting will be the first and major step in the creation of smarter cities. It’s fitting that the start of a more connected and intelligent city begins with one of the simplest, yet greatest pieces of technology, the light bulb.  

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