Drawing from case studies around the world, a new report highlights how a new generation of smart lampposts is helping cities to respond to and tackle the pandemic.
Smart lampposts could play a key part in recovering from the pandemic
A report by a group of global smart city partners is highlighting how a new generation of smart lampposts that can read body temperatures and detect overcrowding could help to stop the spread of Covid-19 and regenerate cities.
Shining a Global Light draws on case experiences from Barcelona, Copenhagen, LA, London, Munich and Singapore, to demonstrate how smart lampposts are being used to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Beyond street lighting
The report demonstrates how latest generation lamp columns go beyond street lighting by incorporating sensors that can receive and transmit information about crowd density, and even the body temperature of individuals. They can also incorporate CCTV, air quality sensors, flooding monitors, digital signage, and 5G wifi hotspots.
The report has been commissioned by city transformation experts UrbanDNA, infrastructure and lighting technology providers Itron, Lucy Zodion and Signify, integrated aluminium provider Hydro, and the Smart City Infrastructure Fund, an investment vehicle for the development of sustainable urban ecosystems.
It provides a number of examples of how cities around the world are using these lamp columns, including Barcelona, where the city council has developed a camera-based solution attached to lampposts in the Las Ramblas area to ensure public health on beaches and implement crowd control measures to help tackle Covid.
“We used scanning devices to get the images and a bit of artificial intelligence to analyse them to find out what portion of the beach was free in terms of lack of people,” said Marc Perez-Batlle, innovation manager at Municipal Institute of Information and Technology at Barcelona City Council. “We analysed the proportion of sand rather than identifying people’s faces. This enabled us to look at the capacity that was free. Due to privacy concerns we anonymised the images.”
“By using their existing infrastructure, local authorities can smarten lighting assets making public spaces safer and healthier and bag the bankable financial savings”
Los Angeles already has more than 400 smart street lights, equipped with electronic vehicle chargers, and the city is looking to pilot air quality sensors, fire spotters, gunshot locators and earthquake sensors. Although LA is not yet using smart lampposts to tackle Covid, its street lighting department maintains that smart lampposts could help it to detect if someone has a high temperature.
James Quigley, senior engineering manager, Bureau of Street Lighting (BSL), Los Angeles, said: “Are people congregating where they shouldn’t be and how many of these people are exhibiting symptoms? A temperature sensor that is mounted on a lamppost is something that could be easily done.”
Smart city infrastructure
Globally, there are 326 million street lights. A quarter of these have been converted to run on energy saving LEDs, with more than 10 million lamp columns already set up as smart lampposts.
“The pandemic has been highly revealing regarding smart city infrastructure, and the need to improve our way of working to drive further efficiencies,” said Richard Perry, Lucy Zodion’s smart cities head of business development.
He continued: “The key takeaway from the report is the amount of untapped potential that exists. We have seen forward-thinking cities such as London, Barcelona, and Copenhagen leading the way, and individually they are only accessing a small proportion of what the ‘humble lamppost’ can offer. Imagine the potential for other cities. With this new alliance, we are learning all the time and discovering new initiatives in which the lamppost can play a role in our recovery.
“We don’t know when we will be finally Covid-free, but as we slowly ease restrictions, new measures will be needed to keep everyone and the economy safe. By using their existing infrastructure, local authorities can smarten lighting assets making public spaces safer and healthier and bag the bankable financial savings that result from smart lighting upgrades – which typically exceed 50 per cent.”
“The key takeaway from the report is the amount of untapped potential that exists. We have seen forward-thinking cities such as London, Barcelona, and Copenhagen leading the way”
Graham Colclough, founding partner of UrbanDNA, which leads the EU’s Humble Lamppost initiative, added: “The paper highlights the progressive cities that are leading the way in using smart technologies to tackle Covid. It highlights a second group that have implemented the technology. However, they have not yet fully exploited its potential to address Covid recovery.
“The real opportunity lies with the third larger group that can reap huge energy and cost savings from installing LED smart lights, and benefit at the same time by making those lights ‘smart’ to address Covid-related needs. Our report shows how they can do so to best effect.”