Smart street lights, communication and the road to smart cities


Nicholas Nhede examines how smart street lighting projects are being deployed as part of broader smart city initiatives in Australia, with a specific focus on how cities have initiated rollouts of the required infrastructure.

Secure and resilient communication systems are one of the key elements enabling the rollout of next-generation technologies given that data telemetry, acquisition, management, processing and usage are vital for the delivery of customer centric services and efficient operations.

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International 3-2019. Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here.

Following the launch of a Northern Territory government initiative to transfer the control of public lighting back to councils, cities in Australia are heavily investing in smart street lighting to reduce energy costs and to optimise the management of grid networks. Upgrading public street lights to LED models alone is not enough to achieve the desired energy savings and other sustainability goals, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Although replacing existing street lights with LED lamps can reduce energy costs by 50%, networking street lights can deliver additional energy savings and reduce the payback period to less than six years.

Other benefits as a result of using networked street lights and related infrastructure include smart city applications such as EV charging, digital signage and communication, environmental monitoring and smart parking. The overall return in investment and benefits of smart street lighting systems is expected to be huge as the rollout of the technology and infrastructure intensify.

According to researchers at Navigant Research, a quarter of the 221 cities worldwide being tracked by its Smart City Tracker are rolling out smart street lighting initiatives.

This assertion is supported by market intelligence firm ABI Research which states that the annual global smart street lighting revenue will grow 10-fold to reach $1.7 billion in 2026 with communication solutions based on cellular low powerwide area (LPWA) network technologies witnessing the most growth, followed by non-cellular LPWA platforms.

Oceania, mainly Australia and New Zealand, has been identified as one of the most rapidly expanding regions in terms of the rollout of smart street lighting and related communications technologies. New Zealand and Australia are expected to invest up to $780 million through mid-2020s to convert up to 95% of existing street lights to LED models of which 70% will be networked by 2027.

The Northern Territory government cities of Palmerston and Darwin have partnered with various companies to implement their smart streetlights projects, with Telensa providing the wireless IoT communications networks. In the City of Palmerston, the communications network will connect LED street lights which will be provided by Light Source Solutions, Orangetek and Philips as part of the city’s ‘Pr6jects: Making the Switch’ programme.

The smart street lights are being installed by Northern Territory-based electrical specialist company ESPEC, which committed to recruiting all the workforce required from within the region to encourage local economic development. In addition to the IoT network, Telensa is providing the City of Palmerston with a central management system which will be hosted by Amazon Web Services to provide a single platform for management of the entire street lighting system, as well as to allow remote control of the infrastructure.

A total of 4,700 smart street lights will be deployed over a period of 15 months as from April 2019 as part of the $3 million initiative.

Athina Pascoe-Bell, mayor of the City of Palmerston, said the project would reduce annual energy costs by up to $650,000 and reduce carbon emissions by 64%, the equivalent of planting more than 500 hectares of Australian forest trees.

“This project is another example of this Council’s leadership in adopting intelligent infrastructure to deliver a safer, smarter and more efficient environment for our community,” added the mayor.

Smart city roadmap – Darwin

Following the launch of its #SmartDarwin digital strategy, at the city’s Innovation Hub in April 2019, the City of Darwin went on to launch the ‘Switching on Darwin’ project.

Commenting on the development, Kon Vatskalis, mayor of the City of Darwin, said: “This strategy will underpin our policy and technical infrastructure now and into the future as we collaborate with the community, business and all levels of government to achieve our smart city vision.”

“A key element of the programme will include the installation of smart lighting and environmental sensors.”

Future projects under the #SmartDarwin strategy include the implementation of sensors to better manage waste and advanced CCTV analytics. ‘Switching on Darwin’ will be funded using a $2.5 million grant secured from the Northern Territory government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Programme and another $2.5 million secured from residents. A total of 10,000 smart street lights is being installed with Telstra and Telensa is providing the communications infrastructure and technologies.

Global knowledge exchange and partnerships

The launch of the projects followed representatives from the City of Darwin together with others from 84 Australian councils returning from a fact-finding trip to Taipei.

Josh Sattler, general manager of innovation, growth and development services, said the trip to the Smart City Expo and Summit in Taipei “…confirmed that the City of Darwin is at the forefront of smart cities technology implementation and platform integration globally.

“We are recognised by our neighbours to the north as an important partner to collaborate with and we have been rolling out new smart technologies across Darwin since 2018 and a number of significant projects are nearing completion. As a capital city with a small population, it is easier for us to be nimble and implement innovative new technologies quickly.

“The City of Darwin is committed to investigating technologies to improve our service delivery and enhance the lives of our community.”

Owing to its leadership role in deploying digital solutions in Australia, Darwin was the only Australian city nominated to a position on the strategic committee for the organisation.

Members of the GoSmart initiative include Taipei and Great Britain and several key industry partners who will encourage collaboration between cities, venture firms and technology companies to accelerate the development and implementation of smart technologies.

It would be fair for one to conclude that just as smart meter rollouts are the foundation to smart grid operations, so too is the installation of smart street lighting systems to smart city applications.