Smart Illumination: Programming street lights to become dynamic, responsive and interactive

Programming street lights to become dynamic, responsive and interactive

One of the key components of a smart city is intelligent and connected lighting. In a smart illumination system, light points are connected to the available communication technology as well as to back-end software. A number of cities in the country lack proper street lighting systems although the concept of smart street lights is gradually gaining prominence. In the upcoming smart cities, the installation of smart street lights is one of the key focus areas.

The street lighting segment has attracted several niche players. They offer smart poles and lighting solutions for the replacement of traditional street lights. Several cities have already started work on the installation of smart poles and have tendered projects on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis. The smart pole infrastructure could also be leveraged to provide smart transport and telecom services. In addition, smart poles could act as city nodes to capture data on traffic, weather and pollution levels.

Key features of smart poles

Smart poles are multifunctional light poles that are equipped with electronic components, software controls and smart sensors that can receive and transmit data. They have the potential to incorporate numerous add-on capabilities and functions, and can be easily upgraded with new and evolving technologies and devices.

A smart pole comprises advanced lighting sources such as LED lights, a control unit and lamp poles with built-in sensors and communication units, which are connected through a secure and reliable wired/wireless network enabling monitoring and control functions. Some of the key features of smart poles are efficient and remotely controllable LED lighting, cellular communication, CCTV security, environmental sensors and public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Indian scenario

Although smart street lighting systems in cities like Los Angeles and Jakarta have been in place for many years now, the deployment of smart lighting solutions in India mainly gathered momentum after the launch of the Smart Cities Mission in 2015.

Smart lighting systems are being managed with the help of software-based workflows, continuous status monitoring and automated fault notifications through remote performance monitoring. Other features of the modern lighting systems include tailored dimming, scene setting, billing based on metered data and on-demand scaling infrastructure. Prior to this, a paper-based mechanism was used for maintenance, planning and tracking the lighting system in cities, and failures/faults were detected via physical patrolling. In this system, lighting levels were undifferentiated. Further, there was estimation-based billing and inflexible in-house infrastructure.

IoT platform for street lighting 

Under the Smart Cities Mission, public lighting systems are based on three basic principles – right lighting, connected operations, and evolving applications. Every city area has different lighting requirements and appropriate lighting systems should be planned accordingly. Further, there is a need to converge lighting and IT to create new capabilities.

The world is now moving towards deploying new technologies such as the internet of things (IoT). To realise the smart city vision, a new IoT platform known as Interact City has been launched. It is a suite of different applications, aimed at making the city lighting system smarter by connecting it with other devices.

The platform is equipped with various software and hardware solutions, and includes a variety of features such as scene management, energy optimisation and lighting asset management. This new system also helps in incident detection by continuously monitoring the streets and alerting emergency services in situations of unexpected traffic, sounds or crowds via sensors on light poles. Such city lighting infrastructure is useful in environmental monitoring. The sensors connected to street lighting systems provide insights into pollution and noise levels. The system is set up on an open data interface, which integrates the public lighting asset data with city management systems and smart city dashboards. It connects smart city applications with remote lighting management to optimise safety and efficiency.

Several players have forayed into the deployment of IoT-enabled smart street lighting infrastructure. As per a report released in March 2018, Tata Communications announced its plan to install 15,000 smart street lights in Jamshedpur. Meanwhile, very recently, Wipro Lighting partnered with Schréder Lighting to market “smart city products and beyond” in India and meet premium lighting requirements. It will leverage the latter’s expertise in IoT-based smart street lights and smart poles. This is expected to improve interconnectivity between cities, and help create a safe and sustainable environment.

Progress under Smart Cities Mission

The adoption of smart street lighting systems has gathered steam. Under the SCM, a total of 74 smart street lighting projects worth approximately Rs 38.24 billion have been taken up or proposed for implementation. These involve the deployment of smart/intelligent poles. Notably, many of these projects are proposed to be awarded on a PPP basis. In only a few cities such as Amritsar and Ludhiana these projects are proposed to be implemented on an engineering, procurement and construction basis. While work has already been completed in Pune, Naya Raipur, Surat and Ludhiana, it is currently under implementation in other cities such as New Delhi and Bhopal. Cities such as Indore, Jabalpur, Amritsar, Nashik, Guwahati, Kochi and Solapur have already issued tenders for the installation of smart street lighting systems.

In Pune, around 80,000 street lights have been replaced with Philips Amplight installations, while a similar kind of street light installation has been completed in Naya Raipur. Meanwhile, the deployment of smart city street lighting systems in New Delhi is currently under way with a few lights already installed in Connaught Place.

Recently, Bhopal launched an innovative PPP-based smart poles and intelligent street lights project under the Smart Cities Mission. The project involves the installation of 400 smart poles across the city along with 20,000 LED street lights to replace conventional sodium lamps and mercury lamps. The smart poles will have features such as high speed Wi-Fi and environment sensors. The project is being undertaken by Bharti Infratel Limited, along with Hewlett-Packard and Ericsson as consortium partners, at an estimated value of Rs 6.9 billion. All the 20,000 LED lights have been installed at a lux level of 30 while the installation of smart poles is in progress. The project is expected to deliver bundled smart services to citizens and maximise profits for the city authority.

Another smart lighting project, known as Light On-Demand for Citizens, has been completed in Visakhapatnam. Under the project, the 4.5 km R.K. Beach Road (from Coastal Battery Junction to Park Hotel Junction) was equipped with aesthetically designed stand-alone solar street lights with 100 per cent energy efficiency. Other features of the system include automatic power controls (according to day and weather conditions), longer lifespan, lower system cost, standby capacity of three days and easy programing. Such lighting infrastructure is also planned to be deployed in New Delhi. Other successful installations of modern lighting systems can be seen at monuments, open spaces and building facades, such as India Gate, North Block and South Block in New Delhi, the police commissionerate in Jaipur, Juhu beach in Mumbai, the Allahabad High Court, Shahi Bridge in Jaunpur, and street lighting and city lighting systems in Varanasi and Chennai.

The way ahead

Even though smart street lighting is a simple solution, it is often ignored or poorly planned. The basic lighting principles need to be taken into consideration while planning for smart cities. This includes ensuring the right light, which is dynamic, responsive and interactive.

In smart cities, lighting management should be done at a professional level. Further, light on-demand and plug-and-play LED lighting have the potential to increase energy savings. With increased urbanisation, the energy load is increasing in cities. In such a scenario, efficient lighting becomes a prerequisite for sustainability.

Smart lighting systems are usually inadequately covered in the detailed project reports being prepared for smart cities and/or are bundled with other unrelated projects. This leads to wrong decisions, poor lighting infrastructure and cities losing the benefit of right lighting and core expertise from the industry. Thus, even though cities are adopting smart street lighting systems, there is a need for proper planning and implementation of the right lighting system.

Based on a presentation by Vivek Jain, General Manager, Marketing, Public Urban and Smart Cities, South Asia, Philips Lighting, at a recent India Infrastructure conference