San Diego mayor: Internet-connected streetlights will smarten up our city

If someone asked you to think of a city that most reminds you of Alberstlund, Denmark, you probably wouldn't say 'San Diego.' One is comparatively grey and cold, the other sunny and warm. One is a suburban town of about 30,000 people, the other a sprawling city with a metropolitan area population of over 3 million.

But one thing they have in common: both are on the vanguard of connected, smart outdoor lighting.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced last month that his city would begin a pilot project to tie some of its LED streetlights into GE Lighting's 'Intelligent Cities' system.

'San Diego has proven that smart infrastructure saves energy and taxpayer dollars,' Mayor Faulconer said in a GE press release. 'We believe that the Intelligent Cities partnership will help us go further in creating truly intelligent infrastructure that helps us improve services to the public.'

The mayor did not elaborate in the release on exactly how the connected lights would improve urban infrastructure. But the release implied that the digital lights (LEDs are semiconductors) and sensors mounted with them would detect traffic and parking situations, as well as environmental conditions and route information about them across city networks.

Intelligent Cities includes 'enhanced sensors' and software called Predix, which GE describes as a 'software platform for the industrial internet which allows for advanced lighting control, traffic and parking optimization, and environmental monitoring and analysis.' 

GE said San Diego is the first city to partner with the company on Intelligent Cities 

San Diego and GE expect to begin the trial this spring. It would mark the next step in a deal that begin in early 2014, when San Diego turned to some 3,000 GE LED streetlights, as well as GE controls, in an effort to save an estimated $254,000 annually in energy and maintenance costs.

It follows the official launch last September of Albertslund's big trial of intelligent LED outdoor and indoor lighting in an initiative known as the Danish Outdoor Lighting Lab (DOLL). The DOLL project, on an industrial park, includes about 25 vendors – GE is one of them – as well as government and academia.

It is intended, among other things, to show how LED lighting can help form the backbone of urban networks and help improve city operations. For instance, light-mounted sensors could detect traffic jams and reroute vehicles accordingly; or they could detect unusual crowd movements and alert police.

In one vision of intelligent streetlighting, Los Angeles has proposed flashing LED streetlights to help guide rescue crews to emergency scenes.

If these systems really turn out to accomplish what the vendors say they will, then before long, a lot of other places might start to remind you of Albertslund.

On the other hand, they carry risks and uncertainties. People have raised privacy concerns over smart lighting, for instance.

Like the weather in Denmark, there's always a chance it could all go cold. For now, though, connected outdoor lighitng is heating up, from sunny San Diego to chilly Albertslund.


Photo is from S. Borisov via Shutterstock

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