Making brighter cities

Harrisburg is doing smart city applications differently – by starting with smart connected streetlights

The newsfeeds are full of smart city pilots and demonstrators, with sensors everywhere. Dig a little deeper and most turn out to be very limited in scale, with no clear path for extending their benefits to the whole city and no idea who exactly is going to pay for them in the long term.  Without a path to improving the lives of all citizens, coupled with sustainable financial benefits for tax payers, most of these pilots will never mature.

That’s where Harrisburg, capital city of Pennsylvania, is doing smart city applications differently – by starting with smart connected streetlights.

Last year Harrisburg deployed Telensa’s PLANet smart street lighting controls as part of its conversion to LED technology.  This system pays for itself in maintenance and energy savings, and provides Harrisburg with a free wireless network that can be harnessed and monetized for the benefit of the city.

City Engineer Wayne Martin was one of the first to recognise the value of using the street lighting network for adding new applications, and is working with Telensa to define the scope of initial deployments.

One example is the monitoring of trash cans to make garbage truck pickup routes more efficient. Another is more granular monitoring of road temperature to make predictive models more accurate and save money on salt spreading.

The city can purchase external sensors to plug into the network, which will allow city officials to monitor any number of items around it, including traffic flow, air quality, and river levels.

“It would save money on salt. We could save 20 tons of salt every year and that adds up to real dollars,” said Martin. “The possibilities are endless.”

So Harrisburg now has a free network with 100% city coverage, able to connect abundant sensors, and to build and monetize its own “big data” platform. The network will not transport video, but many will think that this is an advantage in terms of privacy. For example, in traffic analysis, raw video is processed locally by the sensor and only the data, such as the number of trucks, is transmitted.

“We’re not going to monitor stuff just to monitor it,” said Martin. “It has to make sense for the city.”

The world is starting to notice. In March, Martin was one of three American engineers to speak at a conference in Australia, where Harrisburg is seen as a “lighthouse” smart city deployment.

Telensa PLANet technology connects and controls more than a million streetlights across the world.

[includes content from this Fox43 article]