September 16, 2019

Cities around the world aren’t getting any younger, and what can be considered extra patina and character reveals a greater underlying issue- a crumbling infrastructure system. From our roads and bridges, to electrical grids and sewage systems, increased population is adding stress to systems that are already out of date for the communities they support.   

However, technological and scientific advances have given rise to a new approach to urban infrastructure and city planning in Smart Cities and communities. According to IEEE Senior member and IEEE Industry Applications Society President Georges Zissis there are five trends in particular that are creating new challenges and opportunities for city leaders at the global level:

  • Urbanization across the globe
  • Surging demand for energy and resources
  • Increasing energy costs and more recently the global economic slowdown
  • Cities’ desire to establish a strong identity
  • Growing connectivity

“ The ‘Smart City’ concept is a robust answer to all those challenges. A smart city incorporates the combination of IoT technology and information and communication technology (ICT) in a secure manner to manage a city’s assets. Smart cities can transform the life and work of its inhabitants, both economically and socially,” Zissis says.

Perhaps one of the most important components of a smart city is its smart infrastructure. We sat down with Zissis to learn more about what makes this concept so essential solution to our aging cities and their internal workings.

Q: What is a smart city and how does it utilize smart lighting and the smart grid?

There is an important difference between “Smart City” and “Sustainable City.” The second is defined as cities that are built on eco-friendly basis. These may not necessarily include “intelligent” systems but are built more with  an energy-efficient or environmently-friendly objective. 

From a technological point of view only, smart cities rely on smart grids for energy; smart buildings that include homes, tertiary buildings and commercial centers; smart infrastructure that includes roads, tunnels, parking lots, and any type of urban stations and ports. Add to that smart mobility with smart vehicles and smart traffic control. This is a very complex “system of systems … Lighting is present to all those technological segments. Therefore, smart street lighting is a cornerstone for building smart cities.

Q: What are the technologies that are making smart street lighting for smart cities possible?

Sensors are used in a number of ways within buildings and the public space in the cities. Sensors have been used for decades for security, control of lighting and personal convenience. They can be installed in a wall box opening or in street lighting pole, they usually have a combination of a sensor along with the power electronics to control the load. 

  • Daylight sensors:  are photoelectric cells that switch on the luminaires exactly when natural light becomes insufficient (cloudy day, nightfall…) so as to provide safety and well-being in the public space.
  • Irradiance sensors: Cities or utilities that rely on solar energy as part of their energy mix can plant sensors on street light networks to monitor solar intensity in various areas to assist with grid balancing.
  • Movement sensors: In non-linear activity areas (squares, parking garage, residential streets… places with a little nocturnal activity), the lighting can be dimmed to a minimum most of the time. By using movement sensors, levels can be raised as soon as a pedestrian or a slow vehicle is detected in the area. This light-on-demand function enhances the safety and the well-being of the users while saving energy.
  • Speed and direction sensors: Compared to movement sensors, a speed (and direction) sensor works with a wider detection area to classify the identified moving item following its speed and its direction. This classification provides the right response according to predefined lighting scenarios. Solutions fitted with speed and direction sensors operate in large areas to ensure safety and well-being in the most sustainable way.
  • Image sensors or cameras: These types of sensors can, for example, count pedestrians or cyclists to monitor sidewalk congestion, or even to triangulate gunshots and alert authorities of other types of crimes. Some lighting vendors now offer smart lighting systems with modules that incorporate surveillance cameras and audio recorders. These tools enable authorities to record and review activity and conversations on city streets, college campuses, airports and other bustling public spaces. Cities often look to deploy cameras in frequently vandalized parks, accident-prone intersections, and high crime neighborhoods.

Q: How have cities successfully implemented smart street lighting?

Many major cities around the world are now trying to adopt “smart lighting” systems. However, today, we can speak about (large or small scale) demonstrators than full adoption. The main breaks to a full adoption are (1) costs; (2) population acceptance and associated legislation; (3) technology maturity. There are some examples of cities that have today “smart lighting” demonstrators. 

Q: How does smart lighting benefit the planet?

Adopting greater intelligence is imperative to managing global population growth. In the next decade, according to the World Health Organization,  nearly 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. At the same time, the revolution in information and communications technology is making knowledge a competitive resource. Data is the new currency, the raw material that is changing the way cities operate. Thus, the grid will become another IP platform connecting people and devices through IP. Within a Smart City context, however, infrastructure will become a dynamic platform enabling continuous innovation.

For more information about Georges’ research head to the Industry Application Society page and be sure to check out the Smart Grid Cybersecurity workshop, Dec 12-13th in Atlanta, Ga.

For more information about Georges’ research head to the Industry Application Society page and be sure to check out the Smart Grid Cybersecurity workshop, Dec 12-13th in Atlanta, Ga.