A Jigsaw Puzzle to the Future: Smart Street Lighting

Using as little energy as possible, LED street lighting is frequently seen to be a primrose path amongst energy efficiency projects.

Upgrading to LEDs generates energy savings and reduces emission, which is important for paybacks, and financial returns for projects are very attractive.

For a few years now, street lighting upgrades have been already dispersed in many parts of the world. To emphasize, the majority of installed LED lights are smart-enabled.

Nevertheless, controls have still not been adopted at the extent, even if they offer many opportunities to cause additional energy savings, improve asset management, and to sustain other smart city use cases.

There are numerous rationales for this and we cannot tell them one by one. For example, though, sometimes the benefits for asset management cannot pour through municipalities since their lights are maintained by the utility. In other scenarios, street lights are categorized as ‘unmetered loads’ and additional energy-savings from dimming and trimming strategies cannot be captured.

There are still various problems that need to be addressed with complying standards. Many of these issues are being dealt with and worked through by industry stakeholders. And, we anticipate that the solutions can be grasped by our hands.

There is still a strong case to invest in street lighting controls today if you take into account what role a control system plays in the wider smart cities ecosystem.


Dr. Neil Temperley proposed that smart cities should be addressed as more “vision-driven”, rather than “problem-driven”. It should be treated as if it is a jigsaw puzzle.

Every project and implementation of a solution places a puzzle piece in its rightful place in the big picture (the vision), even though, for now, many other pieces do not yet exist.

Contrary to a vision-driven approach, a “problem-driven” strategy focuses on the technology first and naturally results in fragmentation and walled gardens of solutions that would not complement each other.

Using this approach to street lighting controls, the missing puzzle pieces could be the solutions to the prior stated challenges like regulatory reform.

The main purpose of lighting is visibility, visual cues, safety, and security.


Imagine the following instances:

You park your car at the side of the street. The streetlights near your parking spot automatically adjust and increase the light levels around. With that, you feel safer and your car is more protected even if it is parked out on the road.

By changing its color, the street lights show that there are still available parking spots in the area.

If an accident happens on the road at night, the streetlights brighten up the scene for helpers and provide visual cues to catch the attention of other drivers and pedestrians that there is danger nearby such as flashing a few hundred meters prior to the crash site.

Video analytics from CCTVs give triggers for lighting scenes that prevent criminal offenders. Lighting could also be used to prevent crimes. For example, video analytics can spot persons of interest or people loitering. The streetlights can brighten up to discourage people from hanging around and make passers-by feel safer.

Numerous combinations

Street Lighting is everywhere in cities and lighting at night-time is extremely visible. With this, there are numerous opportunities to combine controls systems with other applications to create new and innovative use cases.

Street lighting controls should be seen as a system within a system and only one element in a smart city’s foundation to support numerous higher-level goals.

With smart street lighting, cities that are aspiring for greater efficiency and sustainability can now achieve their goals without compromising public safety and also without wasting too much energy. This is what the future looks like and this is what cities should aspire to be.


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