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    Smart cities need multiple solutions

    Fortunately, the benefits are multiple too

    With so much innovation happening so rapidly, we often forget that technology is really an enabler, not an end. When it comes to smart cities, the end is not dependent on how well the technologies function, but instead on what kind of improvements they actually deliver to citizens and civic leaders.


    In my conversations with organizations and C-level officers in municipalities all over the world, it has become clear to me that successful smart cities will be the ones that can offer multiple benefits to a broad range of communities and constituencies. They typically do this through multiple solutions that work well together.

    The smart city balancing act

    Managing a city can be quite a challenge. On the one hand, city administrators are expected to maintain vibrant, exciting cities that attract new businesses and make people feel safe and comfortable. On the other hand, they must often do so with shrinking budgets, an aging infrastructure, persistent crime rates, and increasing pressure to realize climate targets.

    As if balancing mounting expectations with flat or diminishing resources were not challenging enough, smart city deployments become more complex as different applications are rolled out. City administrators looking for a single-vendor solution will be disappointed, as no single provider can offer it all.

    Successful smart cities function like ecosystems, where many players deploy solutions and applications. This in turn requires that an open systems approach in which different applications coexist, integrate at either the device or the software level, and above all share data.

    Connected lighting: an attractive starting point

    Within the smart city ecosystem, connected lighting offers an attractive place to start. Industry analysts such as Navigant see connected lighting as a platform for future smart city applications.

    In recent research from infrastructure experts SmartCitiesWorld, nearly half of the city leaders and business executives polled placed connected lighting within their top three priorities, alongside citywide connectivity and urban mobility.

    Successful smart cities function like ecosystems, where many players deploy solutions and applications.”

    Barbara Kreissler

    Now is an exciting time for lighting. LED technology—the most significant revolution in the lighting industry since the invention of the light bulb—is now trusted and widely deployed around the world. It is startling to remember that viable LED illumination appeared only about 15 years ago.


    Connected lighting further advances digital lighting technology by bringing connected LED luminaries and smart sensors into the Internet of Things. Well-designed connected lighting systems routinely achieve energy savings of as much as 80 percent when compared with conventional lighting. 

    Multiple benefits from integrated tech

    For city planners who may feel overwhelmed by the complexity of smart city implementations, there’s good news: integrating different technologies can deliver multiple benefits, many of which are not achievable any other way. Connected street lighting is uniquely positioned to play an important role here.


    Connected street lighting can beautifully illuminate neighborhoods to make them more attractive and feel safer, while at the same time collecting sensor data on everything from temperature and noise levels to traffic patterns on the city streets. But that’s just a beginning. The lighting infrastructure itself, which is already powered and distributed throughout the urban environment, can serve as an integration point for additional technologies.


    The strong link between urban mobility and connected lighting deployment offers one example. According to one estimate, there will be over 550 million electric vehicles on the road by the year 2040. Cities can support this switchover from gas-powered vehicles by integrating EV charging stations directly into light poles on the streets.

    That gives drivers places to plug in, but where will the electricity come from? Research indicates that if you increase the rate of energy efficiency improvements in buildings from its current 1 percent to just 5 percent, you can completely offset the additional energy demand generated by all these new EVs. And the best and most reliable way to dramatically increase energy efficiency, of course, is by deploying connected LED lighting.


    This is only one of many provocative examples of how two seemingly unrelated verticals can generate additional value when deployed together in a smart ecosystem. If you add the example of smart poles, which embed a communications infrastructure for improving wireless capacity and coverage in dense urban environments, then you have already covered the top three priorities of the city leaders who were polled in the SmartCitiesWorld research.


    Smart cities need multiple solutions—but they deliver multiple benefits when deployed within an ecosystem where they can work well together. 

    About the author

    Headshot of Barbara Kreissler
    Barbara Kreissler
    Director, Professional Lighting in the Global Public and Government Affairs Department, Signify

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