Light the way to futureproof your smart city investment
November 26, 2018
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This post is sponsored by Verizon.


Uzair Siddiqui

By: Uzair Siddiqui, Product Marketing Manager, Verizon Smart Communities

Founded in 1379, Oxford’s New College is one of the oldest universities in the world, and like other Oxford colleges it houses a great dining hall. In the late 1800s an entomologist climbed the roof and was shocked to find the huge oak beams supporting the hall infested with beetles. By this time in history, wood beams of that caliber and size were nearly impossible to find.

Five hundred years prior, forward-looking college foresters had predicted the inevitable beetle infestation and had accordingly planted new oak trees on the college grounds, passing down the edict from one generation of college foresters to the next that the great oaks should not be harvested, but instead allowed to grow large enough for the great dining hall when the need to replace the wood beams arose.

The story is part myth, but despite its apocryphal nature, it stands as the ultimate lesson in futureproofing. Five hundred years later, New College was prepared.

With the changing pace of technology and revolutionary new discoveries, building an infrastructure that will still stand 500 years from now might not be so practical. Who knows if we’ll even have light poles or roads by that time? But the moral of the New College story—the benefits of planning ahead—can be adapted to the technology advancements of today.

Installing one device that can power itself, provide its own connectivity, and additional ports for future expansion—effectively acting as a Swiss Army Knife of infrastructure—could prove to be far more economical, profitable and beneficial to citizens in the near future. 

One way to futureproof a city’s infrastructure is through the lights, or more accurately, light poles of the future. Conversion to LED luminaires helps save energy costs, and adding lighting control can provide additional savings in energy and maintenance bills.

But there’s more we can be doing to help maximize savings and expand the life of smart city solutions. The ability to add on as technology advances and build new features on existing infrastructure is going to be critical as technology advancements, like 5G, give way to new solutions.

Imagine a lighting control node that can not only provide energy savings and increased safety due to smarter lighting, but also acts as a hub that video cameras and acoustic sensors can plug into to provide parking, intersection safety analytics, traffic congestion data, air quality monitoring and gunshot detection solutions.

And now, imagine what the future of that infrastructure is without planning for expansion. Would you buy a laptop with only one connector? How quickly would that one-port laptop cease to be cutting-edge and how messy would it be to install external expansion slots after the fact?

No citizen wants to stroll through their city and be blinded by the eyesore of gadget-laden light poles, which is potentially what they could look like if we don’t plan for future expansion now. And it’s not just the aesthetics we should be worrying about. Not all light poles are created equal. Some don’t have the capability to accept additional power lines up the pole. Others don’t have the connectivity to tap into the larger infrastructure and talk to other devices like vehicles, traffic cabinets, and emergency services. Not planning for the future of emerging technologies now could result in prohibitive equipment replacement costs down the road.

Installing one device that can power itself, provide its own connectivity, and additional ports for future expansion—effectively acting as a Swiss Army Knife of infrastructure—could prove to be far more economical, profitable and beneficial to citizens in the near future. 

Planning for the future doesn’t mean blanketing the world with expansion hubs. Some areas don’t need all the bells and whistles; some areas just need to be able to control the lights. In truth, an ideal infrastructure scenario would entail a combination of basic, most essential lighting control solutions in the majority of areas while a futureproofed expansion hub could be deployed in dense urban areas where additional sensors can be added for emerging smart city solutions.

"We've initiated a pilot where this kind of device uses an existing LED streetlight in the public right of way and has a minimal footprint. This pilot demonstrated that we could deploy a single device on our streetlight poles and provide a cost-effective solution with an integrated power and 4G LTE communication backhaul,” says Mark Dettle, director of public works for the city of Santa Cruz, Calif. “After testing its capabilities, we are considering other locations where this type of product can provide tangible data to evaluate the traffic and parking problems.”

As a city manager, what attributes should you look for when futureproofing your lighting infrastructure? Below are a few key requirements:

  • Connectivity: Having a cellular connection built into the node allows for always-available data. Not only can this save time and money, but also using edge processing speeds data analysis, which can result in the use of less bandwidth when it’s transmitted.
  • Ease of installation: Using an industry standard NEMA socket is not only easy to install but also allows the expansion hub to be a power source for additional sensors.
  • Expansion ports: An expansion hub should easily scale, both in software and hardware, to allow for additional services when and where they’re needed at little to no extra cost.
  • Centralized platform: All data from each solution should be available on a centralized platform or provide APIs, enabling customers to see everything from lighting control to parking information in one place.

When we look at the cities of tomorrow, we should be planting the seeds of innovation today. Imagine what the world would be like if all streetlights had the ability to provide more than just illumination? There are more than 315 million streetlights in the world, each one representing an opportunity to pave the way for innumerable solutions we haven’t even conceived yet. That’s a lot of oak trees.

 

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Mr. Siddiqui is a senior product marketing manager at Verizon focused on smart cities and internet of things (IoT) products and services. Mr. Siddiqui has more than 15 years of experience in product management and marketing of emerging technologies and has spoken at numerous webinars and industry events. 

 

At Verizon, our goal is to improve the quality of life for people living in cities around the world and increase the ways and efficiency in which cities operate. It’s not just about smart technology, connectivity or applications; it starts with a focus on the people and their basic wants and needs. We partner with each city to design infrastructure, systems and processes that elevate the way they provide services in new and cost-effective ways.