Kickstart your smart city initiative with street lamp sensors

Image credit: Pete Burana /

The cost of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors has decreased remarkably over the past decade, heralding new possibilities of a renewed push for smart cities. With worldwide spending on IoT predicted to surpass the $1 trillion mark by 2020, this has increasingly attracted attention within various sectors.

With that tied in line with the strong push towards smart cities, more cities are looking towards developing more in-depth frameworks through the use of technologies such as IoT. This gives rise to an abundance of opportunities it can bring to governments and businesses – implementing further smart city initiatives, such as smart street lighting, to drive efficiency and better quality of life for citizens.

Connectivity is a fundamental aspect of a smart city and implementing a smart network nationwide is a challenge. Which brings us to street lamps.

As the number of street lights globally is set to grow to 363 million by 2027, it makes sense to consider this as a platform to kick start the smart city network. With street lamps typically dotted at walking distances apart from each other, we can leverage existing street lighting infrastructure to affix smart sensors instead of constructing a smart network from scratch.

By incorporating IoT sensors within smart street lighting, this can offer benefits such as:

  • Environmental monitoring: Sensors built into street lights to monitor real time environmental factors such as air quality, UV-ray levels and noise levels. Control allows the monitoring to be done over specific locations or citywide.
  • Traffic monitoring: Traffic sensors in street lighting to provide more precise traffic updates and congestion levels.
  • Smart parking and metering: A variety of sensors can be used to track parking lot availability and records for fee collection, and occupant’s vehicle information.
  • Public Wi-Fi and HD video surveillance: High bandwidth wireless networks to provide citywide Wi-Fi access. Utilising of high bandwidth wireless networks to match the bandwidth requirements of HD videos and GPS for emergency response.

Through these solutions, governments and citizens can be kept informed of information in real time. Furthermore, governments and businesses can utilize the data to tackle issues such as public safety, traffic congestion and enhance emergency response. For instance, the transmitted data from the HD video surveillance could possibly inform emergency units of a casualty by identification through facial recognition, allowing the casualty to be identified remotely amongst the crowd.

Integration and interoperability

While governments and city planners are aware of the benefits of a smart sensor network, many face challenges in its implementation, particularly in the integration of solutions and interoperability. This is mainly due to the myriad of technologies and solutions involved which will require the complementation to each other.

To ensure optimal outcomes, both private and public parties need to work together to bring the right set of capabilities to ensure the various smart platforms can be successfully implemented. These partnerships can further unlock new innovations and opportunities – something as simple and apparent as the extended use of street lamps for smart networks. This will ensure that the smart cities do not end up turning into a mix of mini-ecosystems that will only work in silos.

Aside from public-private partnerships, governments also play a role when it comes to implementing regulations and policies within a smart city. In doing so, it enables the objectives of the smart initiatives to be successfully met while minimizing misuse.

In the case of smart parking solutions, sensors are embedded in or on top of pavements to collect data such as space availability and vehicles’ parking duration for automatic charges. The aim is to automate processes and take away the redundancies of manpower. Regulations can be imposed in order to prevent issues such as illegal parking, and ensure that parking authorities still have control on the parking situation despite reduced physical surveillance.

Privacy and data hacks

While great strides have been made in smart city developments, data privacy and cyber attacks are still a key concern. The focus of smart city initiatives tend to solely be on the implementation of the solutions while overlooking the cyber security aspect. As the complexity of cyber threats continuously increases, it is even more important to prioritize cyber security in smart city planning – particularly smart street lights and sensors in the public space.

As cities continue their push towards being a smart city, we look forward to more possibilities beyond the horizon. However, greater involvement of stakeholders will prove essential to drive innovation and collaboration to realize smart city goals.

For all we know, the springboard to smart cities could very well be right under our noses – perhaps something as simple as a street lamp.

Yao Shih Jih, general manager at ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems). Written by Yao Shih Jih, general manager at ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems)

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