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Demand for Smart Street Lighting, Enabled by IoT

Throughout 2015 there will be a groundswell of practical new Internet of Things (IoT) related applications within many municipalities across the globe. We have mentioned public parking automation previously. Another emerging scenario is the enhancement of public street lighting.

The installed base for Smart street light luminaires is set to grow rapidly, with network controlled nodes set to rise from 2 million today to 40 million by 2019, according to the latest market study by ABI Research.

"Alongside the energy savings, lifespan, and quality of light improvements that LEDs offer, the enhanced controllability of this technology through the adoption of intelligent networking solutions has the ability to revolutionize the way cities utilize their street lighting infrastructure in order to deliver an attractive, sustainable, and safer living space," said Andrew Zignani, research analyst at ABI Research.

The technology choices are also evolving. Power Line Communication (PLC) networking solutions are currently dominant but will face increasing challenges from both Radio Frequency (RF) and cellular technologies over the forecast period.

By 2020, RF solutions will make up over two-thirds of installed smart street light luminaires. While cellular implementations are currently very limited, the independence from the electrical distribution network and the lack of additional gateways required can enable smaller business cases down to the single luminaire level.

However, according the the ABI assessment, most municipalities will require a combination of IoT-related technologies to achieve their ambitions.

Though each connectivity solution has its own advantages and disadvantages -- due to the vast structural and regional complexities in street lighting infrastructures -- a hybrid approach that incorporates a combination of PLC, RF, and cellular technologies will need to be adopted in order to ensure the most widespread, reliable, and cost-effective coverage.

To date, high initial costs, lengthy payback times, and fragmented and proprietary connectivity solutions have all hindered market growth. However, several alternative financial schemes, such as energy performance contracts, are being adopted in order to remove potential barriers.

Many municipalities are also beginning to see the great potential for their street lighting infrastructure to become a foundation on which other smart city and IoT applications can be built.

When upgrading to LED street lighting, city managers may be reluctant to spend the extra funds required on a controlling system, unless this is positioned as a foundation for further smart city development. Integration with other aspects of the smart grid can considerably strengthen the case for networked control adoption.

ABI believes that the transition towards IPv6 connectivity solutions will allow greater flexibility in future upgrades and extensions to the smart city network, enabling different organizations, suppliers, and communications methods to integrate together and form a more intelligent, resilient, and sustainable city infrastructure. Advances in embedded Linux software applications will also accelerate the adoption of these IoT solutions.

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