One thing that is consistent through all cities are lampposts. It seems a simplistic statement but it is a key element in building smart cities. Since 1697 when lampposts were introduced as a form of social control they are now seeing the reverse happen – society is starting to control street lighting. Today up to 40% of city electricity is used for street lighting, so having the ability to only light streets when they are being used is a key functionality required by city management. To be able to map the demographics and volumes of foot and vehicle traffic is vital to turning this into a reality. Lampposts provide a key opportunity to not only light the streets but to also monitor them.
Lampposts have several advantages that few other city features offer: they are installed frequently through cities, they have power, and their height enables them to have a higher perspective on city life. They are the ideal place for sensors to enable the monitoring of smart cities. Sensors on lampposts can more easily monitor traffic flow, pedestrian flow, parking availability, rain measurement and pollution monitoring to name a few. UK company Enlight smart lighting device improves the energy efficiency of existing lighting and turns each post into an intelligent node in a communications network.
However lampposts create several challenges. They are only powered at night and many are old models that may be difficult to reach to install new sensor technology. So sensors on lampposts need to be able to power themselves during the day and night. They will not always be able to rely on getting power from the lamppost itself. Also in many cities especially older cities the lighting systems can date back many decades so trying to retrofit sensor technology with these lighting solutions can be difficult. This is now driving forward for the needs of a diverse set of sensor beacons that need to be able to be powered during the day by energy harvesting and fall back on power storage at night. This is where Ilika’s Stereax technology brings new benefits to standalone external sensor beacons. Stereax has a small footprint so it is easy to include in small beacons – a requirement for many cities – they want to be smart but they don’t want the technology to affect the look and feel of the city. Stereax also is more moisture resilient than standard battery technologies making it more suitable for less hospitable environments that have wider temperature ranges and subject to increased moisture due to the climate.