The pace at which new connected telecommunications technology arrives to market continues to accelerate. The first website was made public in 1991. Only three years later, in 1994, the first smartphone was released by BellSouth. Now, just two decades later, connected technology has moved beyond computers and phones and into nearly every facet of life, ranging from domestic applications to city-wide infrastructure projects.
One of the biggest steps forward for smart cities, as they’re being dubbed, is the introduction of connected technology to improve lighting grids. Smart lighting includes motion detectors, light sensors, traffic lights and high-efficiency bulbs, all networked for efficient remote monitoring and control. There are currently over 300 million street lights in cities around the world—37 percent of which are anticipated to use smart technology by 2025.
Here are three of the biggest reasons why officials are looking to integrate connected lighting systems to make our cities a little smarter.
- Smart city lighting provides cost-saving opportunities. For government officials working within the constraints of tight budgets, legacy lighting systems present a number of challenges. With legacy systems, lights must remain in operation at all times regardless of need, leading to energy waste. Conversely, smart city lighting kicks on only when needed, drastically cutting energy consumption. Furthermore, remote monitoring and maintenance of smart lighting grids means fewer resources will have to be allocated to ensure the system remains operational.
- Smarter lighting can help reduce crime. One of the biggest challenges facing cities is the ongoing fight against crime. From deploying more law enforcement officers to rising insurance rates, the cost of crime to a city and its inhabitants is significant. A poorly lighted street provides would-be criminals with more chances to perpetrate a crime without being identified. Smart lighting systems can help prevent those situations. Motion detectors can automatically light a street when movement occurs. Likewise, if a bulb burns out, city officials will be made aware of the outage in real-time. By increasing response time to outages, officials will be able to reduce the likelihood of crime that occurs in poorly lighted areas.
- Smart city lighting grids are environmentally sustainable. Lighting grids represent one of the largest energy consuming aspects of city infrastructure. By upgrading to smart lighting grids and replacing outdated bulbs with high-performance LED bulbs, cities will be able to create a smaller carbon footprint. Furthermore, by reducing wasteful lighting, cities can help to reduce the light pollution that disrupts nocturnal species and deprives city inhabitants of the beauty of the night sky.
Over the course of the next 10 years, an additional 52 million smart streetlights are expected to be installed in cities around the world. The creation of smart city lighting systems, in conjunction with initiatives to replace outdated bulbs with more efficient LED alternatives, is expected to reach $63.5 billion in annual municipal expenditures by 2025. While that may seem like a high price to pay, the return on investment will yield immediate results and significantly improve the quality of life for city inhabitants for generations to come. For instance, Gartner predicts that smart lighting grids will reduce energy costs by 90 percent—not to mention the many tangential benefits.