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How smart lighting technology can provide valuable insights—and cost savings—to your community

Author: Adam Kimmel

Cities consume a massive amount of energy and emit a substantial amount of greenhouse gases. Fortunately, many cities are now implementing LED smart lighting at large scales to help lower their energy consumption. LED fixtures can include sensors for wireless connectivity, cloud hosting, hardware and software that collect data and integrate with the lights using the Internet of Things (IoT). Once the processor acquires the data, users can control the behavior and state of the lights.

The US commercial sector, which includes public street illumination, used 141 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity for lighting in 2019. At the national average cost of 11.07 cents per kilowatt-hour, this usage equates to a national street energy cost of $15.6 billion a year. LED smart lighting can reduce this energy cost by an average of 70% (50% for LED lights alone) and averages a seven-year payback for a bulb lasting 20 years.

While the cost and desire to define a sustainable solution both drive the potential for disruptive change, smart lighting technology offers benefits beyond LED's known advantages—and can even change the way citizens interact with infrastructure and the city itself.

Traditional use cases for smart lighting technology

Lighting sensors provide known benefits such as low energy usage and cost savings. The sensors can pick up ambient conditions and adjust their brightness accordingly. This feature offers on-demand lighting while avoiding washout with sunlight. For midday clouds and rain, the lights can turn on to provide the optimal amount of light.

Remotely managed dimmers are another benefit. For cities with full autonomous control of the street lights, city engineers can manage the connected lights' brightness levels from anywhere. Passive dimming accounts for 10% to 20% of the energy cost savings outlined above. In addition to cost savings, using intelligent dimming with LEDs can implement circadian lighting to enhance an urban environment's ambiance. This technique uses light color ranges to increase citizen alertness and integrate the light with its surroundings more naturally.

Innovative use cases for smart lighting

While the traditional benefits may be reason enough to implement intelligent lighting, there are additional disruptive applications that can transform the way citizens interact with their city (and it with them!). One use is to provide tailored advertising content. Light sensors see when day turns to night, interface with the processor and update the digital signage to display content geared toward restaurants and concerts in place of traditional daytime destinations like museums and parks. The lights interact with their surroundings and communicate with the central database to share relevant content with citizens.

Another bonus feature of these smart lighting sensors is their ability to collect and transmit internal light temperature and energy monitoring. The lights collect diagnostic data and share it with city officials to alert them of the light failure, potentially shortening the lead time to repair the light. Some smart street light systems can also collect data to provide city planners insight into peak usage, traffic, parking and environmental conditions near the sensor.

A final novel application could be the ability to provide enhanced security to residents of smart cities. As population densities increase, the frequency of security issues, accidents and emergencies may also rise. Imagine if a smart street light could sense a car crash and broadcast news of the collision to emergency personnel, other network devices and GPS software to re-route traffic quickly.  Such a system could move the general public away from the crash site and potentially allow the emergency personnel to get to the crash site faster.

The type of innovative use case could augment the known benefits of smart lights and add additional functional capability to the smart lighting solution.

Learn more about Verizon's intelligent lighting solutions.