Imagine living in a smart city with technology capable of doing everything from managing traffic flow to identifying criminal activity. You would have a city of sensors, a city completely connected by computer technology that constantly receives, analyzes, and makes use of data to improve urban life.
It turns out such smart cities are no longer the stuff of futuristic fantasies. They are being built right now. Granted, smart city technology is still in its infancy, but brilliant minds working on cutting-edge projects are making big strides all the time. Companies like LX Group with their innovative LX Electronic Design has developed extensive experience in embedded systems/electronic design and hardware design across a wide range of industries, technologies, and solutions. They owe a lot of what they are doing to the ubiquitous light pole.
What does the light pole have to do with smart cities? Everything, actually. That common light pole act as a perfect host for all kinds of sensors and tertiary equipment. And because light poles are an integral part of every urban environment, there is an ample supply just waiting to be put to work.
Sensors from A-Z
Rock West Solutions, a California company that specializes in sensor technology and signal processing, says that the capabilities of future smart cities will be almost unimaginable. Sensors from A-Z will measure just about anything city planners want measured, all in an effort to make cities safer, more efficient, cleaner, and more citizen friendly.
Cities are already employing sophisticated gunshot detection systems to improve law enforcement efforts. They are using traffic sensors to not only measure volume, but also to alert city managers to emergencies and other events that cause traffic delays. This allows for rerouting traffic to relieve congestion.
In the future, sophisticated sensors are expected to be a critical part of the network that makes driverless cars possible. Sensors tied together via wi-fi networking will keep track of every car in motion at any given time. They will keep cars properly spaced and guide them from departure to arrival.
Why Light Poles Matter
Light poles will play a leading role in the smart cities of the future. They matter to the equation because they will be utilized to deploy sensors city-wide. According to the Smart Cities World website, sensor technology that make use of light poles already exists. They cite at least one technology provider already active in the U.S. and the U.K.
This company installs a variety of sensors on urban light poles, using the electricity already embedded in those poles to power the sensors. Existing wi-fi networks carry data from the sensors to receivers that turnaround and transmit the data to the computers that analyze it.
The system works so well that customers are even installing sensor hubs. These are devices mounted to light poles and capable of hosting different kinds of sensors that all utilize the same wi-fi network and power source. Well-designed hubs facilitate swapping sensors in and out depending on need.
Keep on Lighting
All of this can be done without regard to the light itself. The light pole continues to work as it always has, automatically turning on when the sun goes down and switching off when the sun comes back up. And even if a given pole’s bulb burns out, mounted sensors continue operating as normal.
Next time you are driving down an urban street at night, consider the humble but ubiquitous light pole. While it keeps on lighting your way, there may be any number of sensors attached to it. Those sensors could be monitoring your speed or providing local forecasters with weather information. You never know. Thanks to the light pole, sensor technology is moving us closer to the era of genuinely smart cities.