Making a brighter change: The benefits of Connected Streetlights

By Steven Lupo
Trilliant Managing Director, Canada

No matter where they’re located, our conversations with utility and municipality customers continue to highlight many common goals ­­— the desire to improve costs, increase customer service and satisfaction, and be more sustainably conscious.

When it comes to municipalities specifically, being “smart” by utilizing Internet of Things (IoT) applications is more and more a priority. From traffic to smart parking, IoT applications promise to deliver valuable services to residents while providing the municipality with important data so they can continue to improve on those services. In our experience, it’s important these implementations and projects be well-planned and that a pragmatic approach is taken to ensure success.

In particular, intelligent streetlighting is a project many partners and customers are considering that offers immediate benefits as well as the opportunity to easily expand with other advanced technologies in the future.

Smart lighting uses sensors which can detect elements such as operational data, energy consumption, and more. Wireless modules that are connected to the sensors send important data back to the municipality to then be used to adjust operational aspects of the streetlights, and to ensure they are operational. This alleviates the traditional means of either waiting for residents to report faulty equipment, or paying technicians to drive among city streets manually observing the lights.

In Canada, for example, we’re already seeing customers take advantage of the opportunities intelligent streetlights provide. We worked with one of our many partners to upgrade the City of Granby in Quebec from luminaires to light-emitting diode (LED) technology, and will integrate an intelligent lighting management system (ILS) as well as 3000K warm-white, connected lighting units. The City of Cowansville, also in Quebec, implemented updated streetlighting, knowing this project would allow it to easily manage demand for new smart city services in the future.

There are quite a few significant benefits a municipality can gain with an intelligent smart lighting implementation. Here are five key considerations:

1. Improve the efficiency of employees

Streetlight maintenance has traditionally been a very time-consuming and manual process. With potentially hundreds of thousands of lights across a city (depending on the size of the city, of course), the only way to know if any are out — or if one is nearing end-of-life ­­— is to have employees physically drive around to check on them, or rely on a citizen to call in and report an issue.

With an intelligent lighting system in place, users gain real-time visibility and control of lights. When a sensor detects a light is out or that there’s an issue with the bulb, employees are notified proactively, eliminating the need to drive around to check on lights. Instead, they can spend their time on other, more pressing tasks and proactively update or repair lighting when it’s needed. And with analytics, operational and maintenance issues and cycles can be predicted across the fleet to save time and to eliminate and surprises.

2. Save on costs while saving the environment
When it comes to energy (as well as water and gas), conservation and keeping the environment top of mind is a priority — or mandate ­­— for many organizations.

A streetlight upgrade provides the opportunity to convert bulbs to energy-saving LEDs. To offer some perspective, in the case of the City of Granby, the lifespan of the new LED bulbs put in place is five times longer than that of the original bulbs; this translates into lower costs for energy and lower maintenance costs.

Energy savings can be significant. Using the same City of Granby example, it expects it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 96.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent over a 25-year period, representing the life of the lights.

3. Increase safety

At the most basic level, streetlights are used to keep citizens safe — whether they’re driving on the road or out walking when it’s dark ­­— and intelligent lighting increases the municipality’s ability to keep people secure. Being alerted to a burned-out bulb in real-time means the city’s team can replace it more quickly, ensuring streets and walkways are always well lit. Connectivity eliminates the risk and the liability around safety uses that are involved with not having functioning streetlights.

With GPS and tilt sensor technology, municipalities will better manage their assets while being alerted to specific motion-based issues, such as car accidents that may impact the pole. This has immediate benefits to other asset and service providers as well, who may be utilizing the pole for communications, electrical distribution, and other services.

Another example: sensors on streetlights can detect poor weather such as fog, so the brightness of the lights can adjust automatically to ensure the best visibility during that weather condition. In some cases, lighting might need to be adjusted because of a town event; perhaps select lights along one road need to be dimmer, and others brighter.

4. Reap benefits now, while preparing for the future

Streetlighting is one of the things that is front and centre in a municipality; and while it’s not often thought of when it’s working, when it’s not working citizens notice right away.

It’s also an easy and relatively inexpensive place to start when a municipality is looking to lay the groundwork to leverage IoT applications. As many look to make a switch to more effective LED lighting, with a technician already working on an upgrade, adding the connectivity aspect will allow for a platform that can do so many other things (including the safety applications mentioned earlier).

While in our experience streetlight conversions are for the most part being done now to upgrade to LEDs and having greater insights into and control of streetlighting systems, municipalities can add other practical applications that will allow them to improve the delivery of other services to citizens. For example, cities that have to contend with winter weather can add snow sensors to the streetlights to help them determine where to send plows first after a snowfall. Connecting other assets that the municipality owns, such as water metering, is another example and can lead to revenue generating opportunities for utilities and municipalities.

With the convergence of utility and municipal solutions, advanced control and communications technologies can be utilized across a number of applications to lower costs and risk, while providing better services to citizens.

Such as in the case of the City of Cowansville, by starting with streetlighting, municipalities will have a foundation in place that can be built upon in phases, adding sensors for other requirements as they’re needed.

At Trilliant, we understand the importance of approaching projects practically so they can be successful and meaningful. We don’t believe in doing things for the sake of doing things, and pride ourselves ensuring we collaborate with customers for the best possible end result. Smart streetlights are one example of how we are working to connect our customers and provide them with the tools they need to serve their own customers successfully. To connect with us to learn more, drop us a note at