Analysis: Connected streetlights illuminate path to smart cities
Analysis: Smart streetlights illuminate path to smart cities

Analysis: Connected streetlights illuminate path to smart cities

Projects to install connected streetlights show that cities are serious about getting smarter. These technologies face bright growth prospects over the next decade. 

The city of Wellington in New Zealand is just one among many municipalities that have recently announced plans to install connected street lighting in a bid to be smarter and more energy-efficient.

In Wellington’s case, the intelligent street lighting system involved, called Planet, comes from Cambridge, UK-based Telensa and will apparently “pay for itself”, through reduced energy and maintenance costs. Quality of service will get a boost through automatic fault reporting and streetlight poles will be able to accommodate sensors for other low-cost smart city applications.

According to Northeast Group, a Washington DC-based research firm focusing on smart infrastructure, Telensa Planet is the world’s most deployed smart streetlight system, with a global footprint of more than one million lights. The system can be found managing smart streetlights in Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Moscow, as well as many towns and cities across the UK.

Read more: Smart streetlights may mean big savings in Cardiff

Booming market

Other smart streetlight systems are available of course, and collectively, they represent a booming market, according to Northeast Group. Over the next decade, the firm claims that the vast majority of streetlights will be converted to energy-saving LED [light-emitting diode] technology, and almost one-third (29 percent) will be networked to become ‘smart’, driving spending of some $64.2 billion, according to the firm’s study Global LED and Smart Street Lighting 2017-2027.

In fact, smart streetlight projects tend to be among the earlier signs that a city is serious about getting smarter. They represent the next wave of large-scale smart city and IoT deployments after smart metering and smart grid investments, says Northeast Group president Ben Gardner.

“In the past few years, smart streetlights have progressed from a nascent market to established early deployments of smart city infrastructure. Cities have embraced the technology and diverse vendors have entered the market, increasing the momentum for smart cities,” he says.

That’s creating a good deal of competition in this space, he adds. “As new smart city applications emerge, the number of players involved has increased. New communications options are bringing many telecom operators into the smart city space. They are joining established smart grid and lighting vendors who have already deployed millions of smart streetlights.”

Read more: Rongwen and Silver Spring team up on Chinese smart light network

Clear benefits

Smart streetlights, after all, have clear benefits; precisely the ones that the Wellington deployment is chasing: reduced energy use and maintenance cost and the opportunity for new sensors and applications. Says Gardner: “Cities are quickly realising their street lighting infrastructure is a critical asset that will enable a host of new smart city applications.”

According to Northeast Group’s report, which examines vendors’ market shares, current leaders are Telensa, Silver Spring Networks, Philips Lighting and Echelon. But a string of other hopefuls are out there, some large (such as AT&T, GE and Verizon) and some smaller (among them DimOnOff, Flashnet and Trilliant).

There’s plenty of opportunity here, because as smart streetlight options grow, so does the number of installed streetlights. Northeast Group believes that the worldwide total stands at around 317 million today, but will grow to 363 million by 2027. That’s a lot of smartness to install, with a great deal of potential benefits.

Read more: Smart lights ‘to be most popular IoT device in the next decade’ – Philips