The strategic role connected lighting is playing in smart cities


Ten billion people will inhabit the planet by 2050, two thirds of them in cities. A growing population will increasingly put a strain on our energy resources, with most of the demand coming from our urban centres. At the same time, global warming threatens our planet and population growth will continue to exacerbate this.

To cope with this demand, the world requires more efficient buildings and smarter cities. People have been speaking about smart cities for many years, but progress has been slow. Better lighting can be a key catalyst to accelerate the adoption of smart technologies.

Lighting is an integral part of our world’s cities, both in our streets and offices as well as in our homes and leisure spaces. Today, lighting accounts for 15% of the world’s electricity consumption. With the introduction of more efficient LED lighting, its share of power consumption could fall to just eight percent. The use of LED, also allows us to create connected lighting and digital networks to help capture data-driven insights from our cities to make them more liveable and sustainable.

>See also: 4 ways connected lighting will enable smart cities

Today, there are approximately 300 million streetlights across the world. However, only one in ten are high-efficiency LEDs, and just 2% are connected. Combining high-efficiency lighting with connectivity and smart sensors can deliver energy savings of up to 80% – and provide a significant positive impact on our global climate change targets.

Benefits beyond energy

A connected LED lighting infrastructure can bring benefits far beyond just energy efficiency. It can positively impact the planet, society and individuals in a number of different ways. The value of lighting can now go way beyond the traditional expectation of illumination.

The city of Los Angeles converted all its streetlights to connected LED lighting, providing a substantial energy savings. It also provided a positive impact on the community and helped reduce crime. Los Angeles observed a reduction in crime rates of over 10 percent, for offences such as vehicle theft, burglary and vandalism. Paired with pole-mounted sound detection technology, a pilot was run to also help detect local disturbances and improve police response times.

In the office environment, integrated sensors provide rich data with many uses. For example, in the EDGE building in Amsterdam, the connected lighting system not only allows employees to personalize the lighting and temperature at their workspaces using a smartphone app, it also provides building managers with real time data for space management.

In the home, connected lighting can increase comfort and security, improve wellbeing and transform everyday lighting into an extraordinary experience by syncing with your music, TV and games for an immersive effect. Users can turn on applets that trigger their lights to change colour when the International Space Station passes over their home, flash their team’s colours when they score, or help them get over jet lag and wake up more easily in the morning. Lighting can also integrate with voice control systems like Amazon Alexa, or Google Home to make for a seamless user experience.

The ubiquity of lighting systems in buildings and in the outdoors, and their relative ease of access, makes them the perfect network on which to build connected platforms that can act as the foundation for other IoT applications.

Embracing IoT with open eyes

The benefits of the IoT and connected lighting are only just being realised and there are further expected to emerge that have not yet been thought of, but the changes are happening at an unprecedented rate.

We must however transition into a connected world with our eyes open. There are aspects of a more connected society which must be managed carefully in order to achieve the IoT’s full potential.

As the world becomes more connected, data security and privacy must be carefully managed. As more information becomes digitised, we must continue to strengthen our security standards to minimise the threat from hacking. Companies must operate with full transparency when dealing with data, and ensure that individuals make the decision on how their personal data is used.

Connected LED lighting is a natural starting point to build the infrastructure on which smart technology can be developed, stimulating a significant amount of positive change along the way. Paired with the IoT, it can be used to help better our economy, lower crime rates, improve mood and wellbeing, as well as reduce energy consumption and lower CO2 emissions, benefits that go way beyond illumination.

Drastic change won’t happen overnight, but the world has to make sure it seizes the opportunity smart cities and a wider adoption of IoT provides if it is to successfully tackle the challenges ahead. Wider adoption of connected LED lighting would be a big first step.

Case study: Isle of Wight

A connected lighting project in the Isle of Wight delivered significant energy savings, improved visibility, reduced light pollution and freed up local funds for alternative investment. Over 12,000 street lights were upgraded with some older lighting columns replaced as well.

>See also: Planning for the future of smart cities and the Internet of Things

The upgrade of lighting and controls is part of a 25-year programme being delivered through the Ringway Island Roads private finance initiative (PFI) to upgrade, enhance and maintain 804 kilometres of roads within the Isle of Wight’s highway network.

All of the lanterns were selected for their ability to provide the required light distribution with minimal upward light or light spillage. As a result, Island Roads received an award from the Campaign to Protect Rural England for its commitment to ‘dark skies’, reflecting the significant reduction in light pollution that has already been achieved.

All of the new lighting assets, including the heritage lighting, are connected wirelessly via a central lighting management system that allows each luminaire to be controlled individually or in groups. A key advantage of the connected lighting system is that individual lanterns can be monitored and controlled remotely, which reduces ‘scouting’ and means engineers can respond to faults without waiting for a manual report.


Sourced from Stephen Rouatt, head of strategy and market intelligence at Philips Lighting


The UK’s largest conference for tech leadership, Tech Leaders Summit, returns on 14 September with 40+ top execs signed up to speak about the challenges and opportunities surrounding the most disruptive innovations facing the enterprise today. Secure your place at this prestigious summit by registering here.

Avatar photo

Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

Related Topics

Smart Cities