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Q&A: How intelligent streetlights are driving smart cities (Includes interview)

Itron have partnered with ComEd to accelerate municipal lighting modernization and smart city development in Illinois, which advances ComEd’s efforts to transform the electric system serving 70 percent of Illinois.

The utility will take advantage of the solution to reduce the cost of managing and maintaining the lights and to enhance the quality of service, reliability for community members through remote brightening and dimming features.

Itron also announced Tampa Electric Co. has selected its smart streetlighting solution to convert traditional lighting infrastructure to energy-efficient LED technology. Over the next five years, TECO will install over 260,000 Itron smart photocells.

This installation allows TECO to reduce field mobilization, while immediately communicating outages to enable quick response in support of roadway safety and crime reduction. With the network supporting these smart streetlights, TECO is prepared for future deployments of smart city applications and distribution automation.

Dan Evans, Senior Director of Product Management at Itron explains more about the application of smart streetlights for the smart city concept.

Digital Journal: How would you define the smart city?

Dan Evans: A smart city is an urban area that uses digital infrastructure and data collected from smart city assets, such as intelligent streetlights and connected meters, to improve city services, reach sustainability goals, create economic opportunities and enhance the quality of life for citizens.

Major cities around the world are deploying multi-purpose industrial IoT platforms that provide the foundation to deploy new applications, allowing them to capture benefits from mature smart city technologies. Results include the ability to support new services, reduced operational costs, financial savings from reduced energy consumption and compliance with environmental regulations.

DJ: What are the practical advantages of smart streetlights?

Evans: When cities implement networked street lighting, they quickly realize public safety and operational benefits. Networked street lighting built on a scalable platform increases safety by improving lighting on roadways and pedestrian walkways, and by rapidly identifying failures and unsafe conditions on the electrical grid. Automation and networked control can further increase energy savings through adaptive lighting. Having increased visibility also enables reduced maintenance spending by ensuring problems are addressed quickly and crews are dispatched with the correct tools and parts the first time.

Another advantage of smart streetlights includes the rapid response to citizen complaints. Some cities have received complaints following LED upgrades regarding the lights being too bright. The dimming features of smart lighting allow for an immediate response and improved consumer experiences.

DJ: Can smart streetlights lower costs?

Evans: Yes, the energy efficiency that results from smart streetlights goes above and beyond the savings that result from moving to LED. By using the advanced dimming and brightening controls, a customer can achieve 10-25 percent incremental cost savings of energy and cities often see energy savings of 50-75 percent.

Smart streetlights also lower operational costs for maintenance departments. Since the smart lighting system doesn’t rely on customers to call in streetlight outages, it reduces the call center load. The system receives real-time alerts and will identify the exact location of the failure, the type of failure and the asset management information to ensure the right parts are on the service truck and the truck goes to the right location.

DJ: Can smart streetlights help manage energy demand?

Evans: Absolutely. Automated dimming, reduced runtime and advanced controls drive energy savings. The dimming/brighten feature gives the city or utility complete control of how much energy the streetlights consume. The advanced failure alarm feature also reduces energy consumption, as it can identify when a streetlight is on during the day when it doesn’t need to be, thus eliminating wasted energy.

DJ: How is smart streetlight technology developed?

Evans: Itron’s approach to smart streetlight technology is two-fold. First, we leverage existing scalable, secure, standards-based wireless network technology, which has been used for the past 15 plus years in the smart grid and smart metering space.

Second, we leverage a broad partner ecosystem comprised of companies who are market leaders in the streetlight fixtures and controls space. We’ve found adding Itron communications to a proven solution that has been deployed in the millions of smart streetlight units is the best approach. New IoT companies who are trying to enter this space have a steep learning curve to address in development, including new LPWA technologies like LoRa and SigFox.

DJ: What are the security concerns and how can these be addressed?

Evans: Many new IoT applications, like smart lighting, involve management of critical infrastructure. Security concerns include unauthorized access to the control system and risk of lights being turned on/off at the wrong times. Itron addresses these concerns through a multi-layered security approach covering all components of the system from the user software, the wireless infrastructure and the smart lighting controllers themselves.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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