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New services and applications will drive networked LED street lights

October 19, 2015
LEDS Magazine

Speakers at the Street and Area Lighting Conference were near unanimous in the belief that additive energy savings achieved through adaptive dimming is taking a backseat to new services such as security and safety for municipalities and utilities installing outdoor SSL networks.

The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) Street and Area Lighting Conference (SALC) took place recently in Savannah, GA and networked LED street lights were once again a hot topic throughout the conference. Still, the motivation for solid-state lighting (SSL)-based network deployment is evolving and changing. In past years, networks have been described as necessary to realize maximum energy savings through aggressive use of dimming. In 2015, however, the value of networks to maintenance and to new services such as safety and security has surpassed the perceived value in incremental energy efficiency.

Interested in more articles & announcements on networked LED street lights? 

We will provide full SALC coverage in a feature article slated for our November/December issue. Here we will briefly describe some of the concepts discussed at the event. Utility Georgia Power has installed around 500,000 networked LED street lights over the past four years. Kevin Fitzmaurice, lighting specialist at the utility, discussed a number of applications for the networks that have nothing to do with energy efficiency.

One application tied into a recent press announcement from GE Lighting (now to become Current, Powered by GE). GE has signed a deal with a company called SST Inc focused on SST's ShotSpotter platform. ShotSpotter uses acoustical sensors that could be installed on networked LED street lights to identify and triangulate the location of gunshots. Georgia Power's Fitzmaurice said that Georgia Power is interested in installing ShotSpotter in high crime areas in cities.

"We've entered an era where lighting is so much more than illumination," said Rick Freeman, global product general manager for intelligent devices at GE Lighting. "The ecosystem we are building with our Intelligent Environments for Cities solution is transforming street lighting into the analytical brain of urban life, and this MOU with ShotSpotter gives one more option for cities to unlock new potential benefits for their city teams and their residents."

ShotSpotter is already deployed in some cities, but LED street lights will provide a perfect place to host the sensors and make use of the network communications being put into place. ShotSpotter is intended to work in real time but the technology requires computational power beyond what is practical to deploy remotely. The street lights simply need to transmit the captured acoustic signature to a central system.

"ShotSpotter is a proven tool in helping cities across the country address chronic gun violence issues," says Ralph Clark, president and CEO of SST. "The City of San Francisco, for example, reports an approximate 50% decrease in recorded firearms violence since deploying ShotSpotter as part of their gun violence abatement strategy. This partnership with GE will accelerate the adoption of this technology in other cities by integrating our solution into existing infrastructure in a more comprehensive way."

GE Lighting described many other network-centric lighting applications at SALC. For example, the company mentioned using a network to enable parking services in a municipality — to enforce parking rules through the use of video cameras or perhaps to assist citizens in finding a parking space. For more background on that potential, see the video interview we did with the company at LightFair International this year.

Back to Georgia Power, Fitzmaurice said the combination of GPS capability integrated into LED street lights and the network is enabling plug-and-play commissioning much like what happens when installing a printer with a PC these days. The automation saves the utility in installation and maintenance time and therefore costs. Fitzmaurice also believes the smart lights will ultimately be used to measure and bill for actual power usage.

If you peruse our SALC coverage from prior years, the new drivers for network deployment stand out. Just two years back, networks were the story, but energy efficiency was the reason with maintenance savings a secondary driver. Now Fitzmaurice from Georgia Power said lights will host sensors capable of detecting poisonous gases in a security application.