Intelligent Streetlights Power the Future of Smart Cities

While intelligent streetlights were not specifically listed in this year’s top 10 strategic technology trends from Gartner, they certainly qualify for inclusion under “smart spaces” that create smart cities.

Gartner defined smart spaces as open, connected, coordinated, intelligent ecosystems where humans and technology-enabled systems interact.

I saw an example of how intelligent light poles could create more cost-efficient, sustainable, and safer communities at the recent SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference.

Smart light poles at SAPPHIRE NOW
Smart cities can use the lighting grid to connect valuable information for intelligent governance, gaining efficiencies and economic advantages.

Walking up to the tall, gleaming black pole on the show floor, it was clear this was no ordinary light post. Sure, it sported a light bulb at the top, but behind the scenes, Signifiy’s BrightSites smart pole connected valuable data for every public sector employee — from policy-makers and leaders to daily maintenance and repair workers.

“Streetlights provide power everywhere, literally lighting the way for people as they live and work in their communities,” said Holger Brammer, global vice president and head of Industry Ecosystem for Public Services at SAP. “We can use the lighting grid to connect information that’s valuable for intelligent governance, gaining efficiencies and economic advantages for citizens, including energy and environmental management, transportation, utilities, and law enforcement.”

Intelligence Delivers Insights for Sustainability, Safety

It’s not unusual to see cameras, big boxes, wires, and antennas galore hanging off light poles in any major city. The difference in this example was its connectivity to a whole new digital world. With a connected node, this light pole from Signify used GPS to receive satellite signals and cell phone services as its network. The built-in SIM card allowed the light pole to send data to the cloud.

But the real story came alive in the simulated “City Dashboard” based on SAP Analytics Cloud, which showed data in colorful graphs and charts for real and predictive insights.

For example, with integration to information in SAP S/4HANA, SAP C/4HANA, and SAP Ariba software, municipal workers could quickly find out using the SAP Conversational AI service which streetlights were out, identify and contract an approved supplier, prioritize the repair ticket, and trigger the replacement services. Connectivity to appropriate agencies community-wide could boost citizen safety too.

“Another advantage of the intelligent connection between SAP solutions and Signify’s Interact platform is that streetlights could automatically dim during bright sunlight and brighten when the sky is darker,” said Brammer. “The camera could detect someone walking by, or even an altercation between people, and instantly increase light levels. Connecting law enforcement with this information could help keep streets safer.”

City planners could also predict expected equipment failures based on the energy consumption of working streetlights. One screen showed how municipal workers could simulate potential savings from different light bulbs based on type and wattage mapped to replacement costs. Another display captured air quality in different parts of the city, allowing communities to monitor potential environmental issues measured by the air temperature and history of particulates people breathed in daily.

Smart City Platform

Like any connected infrastructure, Intelligent light poles require serious co-innovation among the various companies with devices that collect data from different places.

“We’re calling this a smart city data platform because it’s built on an ecosystem with partners, combining all the data from the light pole, including cameras, air-quality sensors, traffic patterns, and utilities,” said Brammer. “Cities can improve the quality of life for people as public sector employees collaborate across departments, working in sync to address challenges and bring communities into the next digital era.”


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This story previously appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.