What if city lighting poles could serve not one but ten functions? What if a single lighting pole could incorporate connectivity modules, a charging station, air quality sensor, traffic management sensor, CCTV camera, information board, an emergency communications centre? It’s not a beautifully drawn utopia, it’s currently happening! With smart lighting poles already being incorporated across the globe and 5G on its way, cities will become smarter more quickly. Today, we’ll give you a virtual tour of the amazing tech development called smart lighting poles – follow us!
How did it all begin?
The need for automated lighting poles was what laid the foundation of smart poles. Companies that sold and maintained city lighting needed a way to automate different tasks on a scale so that they could cut operational costs and improve efficiency. They needed a system that could respond to changing conditions such as light and fog. In time, they figured out that lighting sensors are not the only thing that can be mounted on a pole. Thus, the smart lighting pole was born from the dreams of people who could see beyond just lighting. But for an ecosystem to work, connectivity was high on the priority list.
Informational infrastructure, reimagined
5G is marching proudly to markets worldwide. It not only allows people to browse faster but makes infrastructural improvements that previously seemed impossible a walk in the park. Faster connections translate in better connectivity between different structures in the city’s management system – making them interoperable and automating manual tasks that otherwise could cost a lot of resources. Just imagine the possibility of simultaneously adjusting traffic management systems, bus schedules, and parking availability based on data received in real time from lighting post sensors? Or, in case of an accident, an SOS button and smart CCTV monitoring can enable the timely dispatch of all necessary services in a matter of minutes, potentially saving lives.
It’s all possible due to the higher connectivity speeds and smart algorithms that can be created based on real-time data from sensors.
Bright innovations, integrated
If connectivity can be described as the beating heart of a smart pole ecosystem, sensors are its nervous system. They collect and direct data towards the brain (or brains) that analyze it and transform it into reports or direct commands to optimise the system’s workflow. Sensors allow for the Internet of Things to function effortlessly; they create the signals that form a map of potential improvements – from traffic lights management to air quality. In this way, different automated rules can be applied to different segments of the city’s infrastructure in the blink of an eye.
What areas of urban life can benefit from smart lighting poles (except lighting, of course)?
Traffic is one of the main pain points in big cities. IoT sensors can count and classify vehicles, and monitor the overall traffic flow, providing valuable data. Based on this data, traffic lights operators can optimize the system for both vehicles and pedestrians. Sets of automated rules can be applied to create a dynamically controlled traffic ecosystem that responds to different challenges in real time.
Incorporating a robust parking strategy is necessary, especially in city centres. Sensors mounted on lighting poles can monitor for parking vacancies and inform people where is the nearest parking spot via a mobile app, for example. The same system can be used for the payment of parking fees (and imposing fines when necessary).
- Air quality
Air pollution decreases the quality of life in cities both directly and indirectly. Therefore, municipal authorities around the world are looking for urgent solutions to this health issue. The first step is to create a map of the problematic areas, as well as a picture of what pollutants are at play. With this information in hand, mayors can address the issue more adequately.
- Emergency response
A smart pole can help decrease response times of emergency services in two ways. The first is an SOS button – a quick and effortless solution for people who have witnessed an accident to report it. CCTV monitoring is then used by the emergency response centre so that they can direct the most adequate services as soon as possible. Another way in which people can connect with the emergency response centre is via a direct SOS line from a digital screen on the pole. Cutting response times are crucial to saving lives.
- Crime monitoring
CCTV has long been used to improve safety in the streets of big cities. What smart poles add to the equation is a massive network of CCTV placements that covers more angles and is far more difficult to vandalise. The footage from these cameras can be used as evidence in court in some countries.
- Digital signage
Last but not least, smart poles can be used by municipal authorities as a quick communication channel. If a pole is equipped with a touch screen, it can even serve as a hub for bilateral communication – polls, questionnaires, ideas for improvement. These can help create a better environment for digital citizenship to thrive.
Where to begin?
It’s a lot – a smart pole can incorporate all of these and even more sensors but that doesn’t mean it should. Every city has its own problems to solve, and the beauty of smart poles is that they’re highly customisable. Cities can decide what their priorities are and later add to the portfolio of smart sensors they have installed.
Smart lighting poles can be the first step towards creating a smart ecosystem in any city – one based on reliable, real-time data. In the 21st century cities no longer need to play the second-guessing game. They can provide their citizens with better solutions in less time, with less effort and with fewer resources. Isn’t that a bright idea?