As municipalities across the world are forced to shut off streetlights, both citizens and local-governments are faced with a harsh reminder of the high cost of keeping their streets lit. In a bid to reduce these costs, lights around the globe have either been turned off in non-peak times, or switched off completely. And not without complaint or consequence. As a result, local municipalities have been at the receiving end of criticism and anger from citizens and police authorities who complain of the danger of walking unlit streets at night, the increase in crime, the danger for drivers and an increase in road accidents.
Efficiency is no longer a nicety, but a necessity. While switching off streetlights may appear to be an immediate solution to the high electricity bills, it is something that municipalities have been doing in an attempt to save money now for years. However, costs have not dropped enough, and as a result, the amount of streetlights that have been switched off across Britain have increased eight-fold since 2010. Clearly, simply switching off the lights is not at all a sustainable solution. Something else must be done if we don’t want to see our local neighbourhood continue to plunge into darkness.
LED streetlights offer both a much lower energy consumption and a much longer bulb-lifetime. When coupled with Wi-Fi technology, they also bring with them the building blocks to a Smart City that can not only dramatically increase energy efficiency, but can also bring new revenue streams for governments, while at the same time transforming public spaces into vibrant social centres. Streetlights are a great opportunity to provide city-wide Wi-Fi, whilst offering a significant amount of services that will improve quality of life, and citizen pride in their city.
Smart streetlights provide the gateway infrastructure to a more efficient city, whereby they can provide the necessary foundation to a Smarter City – Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is the key infrastructure required to connect sensors and citywide networks that can generate new models of city management in order to achieve maximum efficiency in the municipal system. The fact that thousands of streetlights are dotted across the city makes them perfectly situated to deploy city-wide Wi-Fi, and are the ideal backbone for the implementation of Smart Systems that will be used citywide. Communicating sensors placed on streetlights provide an array of services for purposes of environmental efficiency, citizen safety, and also citizen quality of life.
As Wi-Fi hotspots, Smart Streetlights become valued real-estate, and generate additional revenue streams for the municipality. These options present themselves in a variety of ways, two of which are through digital advertising, and becoming spots for interactive intelligent services as can be seen in such cases as New York City.
With the foundation of this technological infrastructure, cities enable the organic development of these systems, where such infrastructure enhances urban development, attracts knowledge-intensive businesses and encourages the private development of systems that engage citizens and increase factors of liveability. In turn, the infrastructure can increase a city’s brand value, attracting business, talent, and encouraging the younger generation to stay, rather than go. All the while – reducing electricity costs.