Smart Cities: The Way Forward

Source: Promo Wednesday, 11.05.2022. 13:29
(Photo: Goran Parezanović)
Over half of the world’s population lives in urban centers, and according to the UN report from 2018, by 2050 this will rise to two thirds. Rapid urbanization and population growth are putting more pressure on resources. This is reflected in the environmental impact of cities; despite occupying a mere 2% of the world’s landmass, their footprint is staggering.

Cities consume over two thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions. Their environmental impact must be reduced while adapting to the needs of the people who live there. Cities need to become safe living spaces that provide high quality of life for citizens.

Can connected lighting help resolve the energy crisis? Yes.

Energy prices are through the roof. Both natural gas and crude oil have at recent points cost about twice what they did a year previously, and some countries are seeing the highest energy prices in history. Unwanted consequences include inflation, less consumer spending, and human hardship in the cold months when it becomes more expensive for businesses to heat their buildings and consumers to heat their homes.

Fortunately, governments, businesses, and consumers can take steps to mitigate the current energy crisis, both now and in the future. The easiest and most expedient way to do so is by embracing LED-based connected lighting technology—next-generation LED-based lighting integrated into the Internet of Things (IoT).

Lighting accounts for a full 12% of the electricity consumed around the globe each year. IoT-enabled smart lighting is a significant step on the road to sustainability. It represents a minimally disruptive yet meaningful move that will buy time as we take the more complex steps that the interlocking energy and climate crises will require.

Creating a smart city

How to make the most of smart city opportunities and at the same time balance technical, legislative, and political challenges? Limited budgets and funding. Resource constraints. Siloed infrastructures. There is pressure to solve more immediate problems rather than focusing on longer-term transformative goals. These are just some of the challenges getting in the way of creating a smart city. But despite these difficulties, city leaders are expected to deliver results. They are often called upon to:

– Continually improve citizen services (e.g. provide inner city parking, reduce traffic, create a healthier environment)
– Enhance the feeling of public safety by reducing crime rates and accidents
– Improve the city infrastructure
– Demonstrate technology leadership (e.g. leveraging technology for more rapid responses to complaints)
– Enhance engagements between citizens and the city
– Save taxpayer dollars, improve operational efficiency, and create energy savings
– Manage the expectations and ambition of key stakeholders
(Photo: Ju Jae-young/

How to successfully navigate all these challenges? For many decision-makers, the answer is to become a smart city. In an increasingly digitized world, it’s clear that technology will significantly impact how you manage, run, and grow your city. This has spurred a rapid increase in smart city initiatives and interest in the potential for smart cities in recent years. Smart cities can offer important benefits, including:

– More efficient city planning and operations
– Improved city services
– Increased sense of safety and security
– Significant energy savings and reduced costs
– Enhanced city sustainability potential
– Enabling the community to engage with data from the Internet of Things (IoT)

The race to connect and digitize cities through smart lighting has begun

While lighting is one of the many components of a much larger ecosystem, Signify contends that it can and should be used as the entry point into becoming, and ultimately being the backbone of, a truly digital city. To make your city smart, why not use the city-wide network you already possess?

– Smart connected lighting goes far beyond that of illumination and should certainly be considered by municipal councils and urban planners – said Harry Verhaar, Signify’s Head of Global Public & Government Affairs.

– Street lighting remains an undervalued resource, particularly when it comes to the digital realm. We have proven results that show connected lighting systems offer improved quality of life through the extra features they bring, as well of course the reduced energy consumption and lower running fees that come with switching to smart LED lighting. This environmentally friendly and digital resource needs to feature firmly in national and municipal post-pandemic recovery strategies – he added.

The company is now encouraging Europe to lead the way and embrace the lighting-led digital transformation. This will be needed so that the built environment aligns well with a bigger shift towards a future largely revolving around digitization. Interact City for example, Signify’s highly secure connected LED lighting management system can remotely control and monitor a city’s worth of individual light points and streetlight cabinets through a single centralized online application. Perhaps the most advantageous component, however, is how the system, when integrated with innovative lighting fixtures and poles like the BrightSites Smartpole, advances digital opportunities and the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) network. These streetlamps have the potential to house 5G and Wi-Fi connectivity, remote-controlled billboards, CCTV, and microphones capable of detecting sudden loud noises which can be quickly investigated. Nodes and sensors can provide data-based insight into electricity usage, noise pollution, as well as traffic. The light’s brightness can also be controlled to adapt to nearby activity. City landmarks can also benefit from a smart city makeover. Even the drabbest monuments can be completely transformed by subtle colorful light – displays that can be customized to special events and holidays by the swipe of a screen app. What’s more, the benefits to local communities can be profound. Inner city areas can be regenerated, and cities become more livable and attractive to tourists.

Signify’s latest system for controlling architectural lighting, is Interact Landmark. The software suite enables lighting managers to change light scenes on the fly and do so wherever there is a secure internet connection. There is even an app that allows people with smart phones to interact directly with the lighting on the landmark, creating a truly memorable and interactive experience.
(Photo: Aleksandar Parezanović)

(Photo: Signify)

(Photo: Signify)

(Photo: Signify)

– The streetlight has come of age. Think of it providing quality light but also as a digital node with its own IP address on a network that extends to every road and street in your city. A smart node on a city-wide network that you already have in place and which you can connect wirelessly – said Verhaar.

Built environments – roads, streets, facades – need to be fit for purpose for the digital age. Smart cities, once dreamed about are rapidly becoming reality with lighting networks coming to the fore as a vehicle for reducing electricity consumption while delivering smart city services. As policy makers sharpen their post-pandemic recovery plans, now is the perfect time for lighting to have a seat at the top table.

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