Streetlights have come a long way from just illuminating a street. Today, smart lamp posts contain Wi-Fi or cellular connections, sensors to monitor traffic and the environment and could possibly be key to expanding 5G coverage in smart cities. Now, smart lamp posts are being developed that can read body temperatures and detect overcrowding, which could possibly prevent the spread of viruses such as COVID-19.
Shining a Global Light, a report gathered by UrbanDNA, Hydro, Itron, Lucy Zodion, Signify and the Smart City Infrastructure Fund, is demonstrating how these smart lamp posts can tackle the current coronavirus pandemic and could fight future viruses as well.
There are more than 326 million streetlights globally, a quarter of which have been converted to LEDs and more than 10 million lamp columns already set up as smart lamp posts.
In Barcelona, a camera-based solution attached to lamp posts ensures public health on beaches and implements crowd control measures.
"We used scanning devices to get the images and a bit of artificial intelligence to analyze them to find out what portion of the beach was free in terms of lack of people,” said Marc Perez-Batlle, manager at the Municipal Institute of Information and Technology for the Barcelona City Council. “We analyzed 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 anonymized the images."
In London, the city is looking at ways of using lighting to nudge people away from crowded tube exits around Oxford Street to help with crowd safety management. In Los Angeles, more than 400 smart streetlights, equipped with electronic vehicle chargers, is looking to pilot air quality sensors, fire spotters, gunshot locators and earthquake sensors.
"Are people congregating where they shouldn't be and how many of these people are exhibiting symptoms?” said James Quigley, senior engineering manager at the Bureau of Street Lighting (BSL) of Los Angeles. “A temperature sensor that is mounted on a lamppost is something that could be easily done. If your temperature is above 100 you can flag it up."
While vaccines have helped curb the COVID-19 virus, some countries, particularly in Europe, are struggling with lockdowns. Streetlamps could help ease countries out of lockdown earlier and prevent them from going into future lockdowns.
"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, head of business development at Lucy Zodion Smart Cities. “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.”