Lights, cameras, actionable insight: The promise of smart lighting in cities | S&P Global Market Intelligence

2022-05-14 18:34:09 By : Ms. Ailsa Zhang

Lights, cameras, actionable insight: The promise of smart lighting in cities

2022 broadband forecast shifts to market share battle with intense competition

Insight Weekly: Cryptocurrency's growth; green bond market outlook; coal investors' windfall

Elon Musk’s $44B Twitter Deal by the Numbers

As cities undertake the journey of digital transformation, smart lighting is often the first step. The predictable return on investment of smart lighting and the ability to leverage existing infrastructure make it an ideal candidate for city's first deployment of smart technology. Cities can derive valuable new data and insights by connecting multiple cameras and sensors that monitor factors such as traffic, air quality and flooding with public Wi-Fi or 5G small cells. In doing so, cities feed into the concept of a "pole economy," where they collect multiple previously untapped data sources at a single location. Vendors providing cities with smart lighting have taken several different approaches to deployments, data management and integration.

Smart lighting offers municipalities an anchor that could equip their existing city infrastructure with new levels of digital intelligence. Often driven by savings from LED light conversions, deploying additional connected sensors is the next step in turning lights into "smart assets." Several vendors enjoyed the early buzz around smart cities and lighting management platforms that could collect and manage data from sensors — perhaps most notably GE Current 's CityIQ, which Ubicquia Inc.  acquired  in 2020. There is great appeal in the potential benefits of layering several sensors on one device and leveraging data for better insights on weather, traffic and public safety.

Cities around the globe have adopted smart lighting, with millions of streetlights now managed via a host of smart-lighting technologies. Energy savings, public safety benefits and new revenue opportunities have driven many cities to equip their lighting networks with sensors. The availability of newly appropriated federal funds in the U.S. has reinvigorated smart-city initiatives for digital transformation following a pandemic-related slowdown in such efforts.

Forward-looking implementation of smart-lighting technologies leads all other smart-city use cases, according to 451 Research Voice of the Enterprise data, as 24% of respondents to a 2021 internet of things survey said they are planning to implement smart lighting within the next two years. This placed it ahead of other city-level IoT use cases, such as video surveillance with 22% of respondents, smart parking with 18% and traffic control with 17%.

What's so smart about smart lighting?

The difference between traditional city lighting and smart lighting boils down to two factors: control and connectivity. Smart lighting enabled by sensors and communications infrastructure allows for remote access and control, down to the individual lamp level — from simple on-off functions to elaborate colored lighting displays. Smart lighting provides value by deriving insight from previously untapped data streams on energy use, environmental conditions and grid outages, and workflows.

The vehicle for this control and connectivity is the lighting controller. About the size of a baseball, controllers can turn lights on and off, operate autonomously on defined schedules and provide trend analysis for energy optimization. Companies such as Itron Inc.  have approached smart lighting by providing their own controller stacks rather than partnering with a network lighting controller, or NLC, company. Itron acquired  SELC Ireland Ltd.  in 2021. The acquisition allowed Itron to provide an integrated smart-lighting product that connects to its own lighting management software.

The lighting controller operates as a sensor, collecting information about energy use, ambient light and a host of other defined factors. During setup, devices are programmed and added to a network that receives information about the device location and grid awareness. From a field-service automation point of view, companies like TerraGo Technologies Inc.  have approached smart lighting with the goal of automating work orders and service requests. TerraGo has been able to automate the commissioning of nodes by scanning bar codes on the node directly to service them more efficiently and reduce truck rolls, which are a major expense for lighting and work crews.

Depending on a given city's preference, the controller can be mounted on top of or within the lighting fixture. Companies such as Signify NV  also provide the light pole, maximizing deployment outcome by embedding the fixture with a gateway, or multiple plug-and-play sensors.

Nodes on fixtures can be connected to intelligent operations centers or advanced lighting management systems. The latter are either hosted on-premises by a city or utility or provided as a service by lighting vendors. These management systems typically handle several use cases and pull and aggregate data directly from multiple types of sensors.

These two approaches to lighting control sit on a spectrum of capabilities, with intelligent operations centers most often serving municipal lighting departments with basic functionality and energy and power reporting. In addition, specialized systems can provide more than lighting management, with the potential to support additional levels of data, insight and control from multiple types of sensors, including video or LiDAR cameras, audio sensors and environmental sensors.

Operationally focused platforms like Telensa Holdings Ltd. 's PLANet focus solely on lighting infrastructure — turning the lights on and off, tracking workflows and reporting outages in real time. Operations platforms are often complemented by an analytics dashboard that tracks energy usage, outages and asset management. PLANet, for example, offers customers a platform that equips them with the ability to manage and control hundreds of thousands of lights, and it is certified by the TALQ Consortium for smart-city technology. Signify acquired  Telensa in 2021.

Other lighting management systems can serve a broader range of smart-city use cases. The Signify Interact IoT Platform, for instance, exemplifies this lighting-based approach to wider smart-city central management. On a single dashboard, Interact not only collects lighting data but also data from other sensors embedded in the lighting infrastructure. Formerly known as Philips Lighting, Signify spun off from the larger lighting division in 2016 as Philips moved toward healthcare and consumer markets.

Providing the luminaire and the pole as the original equipment manufacturer, Signify sells an expandable offering with the ability to layer additional applications when necessary via open application programming interfaces for space utilization, occupancy, environmental conditions and traffic conditions. Signify serves multiple smart-city use cases on its own and with technology partners, collecting data and providing insight via its Interact platform. Flashnet SA 's inteliLIGHT takes a similar approach — both companies provide the hardware and software needed for a comprehensive lighting solution. Offering its own operations platform, inteliLIGHT reports using IoT connectivity as a back-end data unifier.

Connectivity adds a layer of intelligence to lighting fixtures. A host of connectivity options enable smart-lighting systems. These options range from cellular — 2G/3G, LTE, LTE-M and narrowband-IoT, and emerging 5G networks — to medium- and long-range solutions covered by Wi-Fi, radio frequency mesh and other technologies, depending on user preference and network availability. Whereas cellular is ubiquitous, radio frequency, or RF, has a shorter range, about 200-300 meters.

Most smart-lighting companies are flexible when it comes to connectivity protocol, often favoring RF mesh or cellular. InteliLIGHT touts communication-agnosticism as its strength, given that its platform is compatible with five different protocols depending on local network and city preference.

Streetlights with cellular options can connect directly to a public cellular network. RF mesh uses unlicensed spectrum to create a private network and connects multiple lights at once. In an RF mesh network, 15-30 lights create a peer-to-peer network that enables constant data sharing on the fastest route possible. One light then shares the "group" data to a gateway, usually installed in a nearby lighting cabinet. The gateway connects to the operations or management platform through cellular, wired connection or Ethernet network technology.

Cellular connectivity offers several advantages. In particular, its service-oriented nature means lighting providers need not own and operate the network itself. Cellular is well equipped to handle massive connections as the number of online devices proliferates. RF mesh networks must be built and maintained where they do not yet exist, meaning that where lighting is a city's first deployment of smart technology, the network must be installed alongside the sensors. While RF mesh's self-healing ability can increase network uptime by actively covering any dead zones, smart cities may still require technicians in the case of gateway or other issues.

LED conversion tends to be the first step in a smart-city journey. Cost savings from newly efficient lights are often redirected to investment in connected lighting, with IoT-enabled lighting driving expenses down even further via scheduled dimming and energy-saving measures embedded in devices. Other deployment drivers include improving public safety by keeping the lights on in high-risk areas, reducing a city's carbon footprint and cutting down light pollution by keeping lights off when not necessary. The ability to control a city's entire suite of lighting assets remotely is increasingly of interest to city managers and lighting departments.

Due to the distributed nature of smart lighting, antenna saturation can inhibit deployments. As more IoT-enabled sensors and applications come to market, demand rises for antennas and radio cell towers to enable communications between the network edge and the cloud. Limited options for unobtrusive edge computing networks leave cities facing increased saturation of unsightly wires and poles. Edge computing vendor EDJX Inc.  and the Autonomy Institute are addressing this issue by providing a public infrastructure network node, bringing edge-native computing power into cities via a multi-tenant IoT pole.

Beyond the aforementioned players in the smart-lighting market, companies have approached smart lighting from a variety of angles. Regionally focused actors include FondaTech in China, Tvilight B.V.  in Europe and Dhyan in India.

Big tech players have also developed smart-lighting technology. Verizon Communications Inc. , for example, offers grid-wide intelligent lighting in dozens of U.S. cities as part of its connected smart cities and communities program, and Qualcomm Technologies Inc. 's Zyter Inc.  SmartSpaces platform recently partnered with Juganu Ltd. , a lighting-infrastructure-focused IoT platform. Additionally, Nokia Oyj  staked a claim in the smart-lighting market through a partnership with alternative energy system provider ClearWorld to provide LED smart poles with Nokia's IoT applications.

As many of the industry players we cover will tell you, lighting often does not stand alone. Following the LED savings and connectivity, many cities look to use the light fixture as prime city management real estate. Although most companies reported a slowdown due to COVID-19, many are seeing the sector pick back up, especially following an injection of U.S. federal funding.

As part of the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the newly established Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation program — designed to help fund smart-city projects — will receive $500 million in funding over the next five years, or $100 million per year, from the U.S. Transportation Department. Despite the transportation and mobility focus, funding can be used for a wide range of smart-city projects, including lighting.

Common use cases for sensor layering among vendors include environmental monitoring and traffic and transportation sensors. Signify reports 750,000 connected road and street sensors. Ubicquia has leveraged smart-lighting real estate to layer multiple smart-city applications — its Ubihub APAI product serves as a streetlight controller and Wi-Fi 6 access point with camera and audio sensors. Itron reports partnering with other IoT sensor companies, leveraging the light pole to derive insight on smart parking, noise and environmental reporting. With a European focus, inteliLIGHT often sees environmental sensors in its deployments as cities and utilities aim to realize sustainable development goals.

This article was published by S&P Global Market Intelligence and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.