A light by any other name

With the rise of smart infrastructure in our cities, we are becoming increasingly connected and able to monitor and control our surrounds. This ability to link networks together goes from the scale of a bulb in our home to having the ability to track traffic and measure pollution. Los Angeles has taken another step towards urban connectivity by employing the help of the humble street lamp. SmartPoles have transformed an object that is otherwise used for lighting our nightscapes, into nodes of a larger network providing WiFi across the city.

Lamp posts are ubiquitous across exterior and shared spaces. LA is the first city in the world to install Philips-branded SmartPoles, containing Ericsson’s wireless technology 4G LTE. Each pole maintains a reliable connection to the network by means of a fibre link. These SmartPoles will be widely distributed across the urban sprawl, having the ability to provide superior network coverage for phones. This concept of a node network is in contrast to the conventional network approach that uses phone towers, which stand in a single location. The SmartPoles disperse the network and serve as a system of nodes, making it less prone to mass failure in the case of damage to one area – say by an earthquake. However, the loss of a phone tower could knock out connectivity in vast areas.

“This increased reliability for the wireless network is especially important in the event of emergencies — so that smartphones stay online when they are needed most,” says Peter Marx, Chief Technology Office for the City of Los Angeles.

Having the ability to stay online during mass blackouts could be a boon for disaster struck areas. We have developed a major reliance on wireless networks as a means of communication. Staying online is the objective. The roll out of this new system is underway, with 100 SmartPoles installed and a total of 500 to be implemented in the coming five years. This functionality complements the previous city infrastructure update that LA implemented, known as the Citytouch system, which allows the LED lights in lamps to be managed wirelessly.

Cities are an accumulation of various systems that rely upon one another to function and run smoothly. As population density is increasingly becoming problematic for many cities, it is paramount to reduce the breakdown of such systems. For instance, one failure in an area of a city can have entire traffic systems grind to a halt. Having a network that communicates amongst itself can make our lives in the city run smoother. Overlaying additional functions into widespread everyday objects, such as the lamp post, is the next step towards a more connected, smart-city.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *