They’re one of those “boring” innovations that we all take for granted… but grumble when they’re either not working, or not even present at all.
When rudimentary public lighting first hit Italy’s streets back in the 1600s, it marked a cultural shift for cities.
Gone was the dark and eerie “after-hours” world, where criminals and prostitutes could lurk unnoticed in the shadows. Any attempts to rebel and transgress were suddenly illuminated. Discipline became easier, and previously off-limits streets became safer and allowed the masses to venture out after dark to socialize.
By the 1660s, Amsterdam became the first European city to innovate a more modern street light – a design that took hold and “by 1700, consistent and reliable street lighting had been established in Amsterdam, Paris, Turin, London, Copenhagen, Hamburg, and Vienna,” according to historian and author, Craig Koslofsky.
Fast-forward to today, however, and street lighting is getting the tech treatment.
In other words, lights are getting smarter…
In Search of Energy-Efficient, Cost-Effective Lighting
Did you know that up to 40% of an average city’s electricity usage goes towards street lighting?
While much of it is quite essential, helping people to navigate in the dark and providing safety and security, much is also inefficient and very costly. Little-used streets can remain illuminated for hours at nighttime, despite very little foot traffic or vehicles.
One option, of course, is to simply switch them off when not in use, or during nighttime hours. But that takes things to the other extreme. How do you know when traffic will appear? And who’ll switch the lights back on when it does?
There’s got to be a more energy-efficient, cost-effective way, right?
That’s where smart technology comes in.
In Los Angeles, for example, the city has carried out the world’s largest lighting refit. It ditched 141,000 traditional street lights and plugged in more energy-efficient LED lights instead.
That’s smart (indeed, Philips says LED street lights can save cities 70% on energy)… but the Danes have an even bigger, smarter plan…
The “DOLL” Directive
In the Copenhagen suburb of Albertslund, a 1.5-square-kilometer area has become a testing ground for what its engineers say is the largest smart lighting experiment in the world.
It’s called the Danish Outdoor Lighting Lab (DOLL) – a study that involves nine kilometers of total street area, 18 different companies, 50 intelligent lighting systems, and 10 management systems.
At the heart of the trial is energy efficiency, with roads featuring lamps that brighten as cars, cyclists, and pedestrians approach, but stay dark when the sensors don’t pick up any activity.
And it’s all controlled from a central hub, where technicians can alter each individual light with a simple swipe on an iPad or smartphone.
That’s because “every lamp has an IP address, so you can monitor the run time, the efficacy, the power consumption,” says DOLL’s Chief Science Officer, Jakob Andersen. He continues, “Then we do real-time measurements on street level.”
Take a look…
One company involved in the trial is Focus Lighting. It’s brought two of its systems to DOLL and Managing Director, Peter Olivarius, says the trial will provide information and data for local authorities to make better lighting decisions.
For Copenhagen specifically, DOLL data shows that one-fifth of the city’s electricity consumption goes towards street lighting.
It wants to do better.
In fact, the city aims to become the world’s first carbon-neutral city, and plans to install smart lights in an effort to do so. Indeed, DOLL says the solutions on trial at Albertslund could help slash street light emissions by a whopping 85%.
Ultimately, with the greater insights that smart lighting systems give to city authorities – and the opportunity to use modern technology to control them centrally – the DOLL engineers hope that a successful trial will provide key research into smarter, more energy-efficient lighting systems across the world.