The key to fruitful innovation is freedom to experiment. Lighting infrastructure provides that flexibility in a cost-effective way, because the installation costs of energy-efficient LED lighting are offset in savings from reduced energy consumption. When cities seize the opportunity to adopt intelligent lighting networks, they create a smart city platform for other applications supported by embedded sensors and data.
The move to LED is already well underway. In 2016, Los Angeles reported savings of almost $9 million in energy savings from remote management of more than 110,000 connected LED street lights retrofitted with Philips CityTouch “connector nodes”. As more cities switch to LED by retrofitting city street lights, we are at a critical juncture for the lighting industry.
The long life of LEDs, which typically will function for 15 years of more, poses a particular challenge. After the point of installation, that longevity may deter further investment in infrastructure. To enable other digital services, it is important that city planners make the right choices. Of about 300 million street lights worldwide, only 12% are LED.
Big companies like Philips Lighting will build these platforms, but their purpose is to enable agile experimentation – a shared endeavour, reinforced by joint learning. The most innovative European cities are collaborating with start-ups, SMEs and creative partners to find winning applications that enhance communications, services and well-being.
Not everything that is technically possible will be useful or economically viable, but the public interest is served by sharing information that could be beneficial for, say, public safety. With so much at stake, governance is an important concern. Smart cities are no longer a “technology play”, in the sense that strategic choices can be made solely to investors or developers.
My next, and last post in this series, will make the case for citizens to be involved and engaged in designing our smart cities.
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