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Smart street lights shine spotlight on violent crimes


Cities have found intelligent street lights useful for everything from energy conservation to traffic management, but a new partnership involving Council Lead Partner GE will help them fight crime too. In fact, the lights will be able to alert police to possible crimes, even if no one calls for help.

GE is partnering with ShotSpotter, a partnership that could soon enable GE’s intelligent street lights to detect gunfire and alert authorities. ShotSpotter’s technology listens for gunfire. Its real-time analysis can pinpoint the location of the shots, notifying emergency dispatchers and officers in the area in less than a minute.

Under the agreement, the technology would be incorporated into GE’s Intelligent Environments for Cities platform.

Making cities safer
Both say the partnership has potential to dramatically improve public safety. In areas where gun violence is a problem, police rarely hear when shots are fired. On average, for every 10 incidents where shots are fired, emergency dispatchers will only hear about one of them. And even then, the information is not likely to be accurate.

Police say anything that provides them more accurate and timely information will help them save more lives and catch more of the bad guys. Schools are also looking at the technology to help police respond faster when there’s violence in the classroom. A San Francisco high school started using the technology this fall, the first school in the country to do so. The system can overlay the shooter’s location on a floorplan of the school, even telling officers which direction he is going and what type of gun he is using.

A number of cities are using the technology to detect gun violence on their streets. While some have had concerns about false alarms, San Francisco says that system helped it cut gun violence in half by helping officers respond faster and target problem areas. By including the technology in GE’s intelligent street lights and platform, it should be easier for cities to deploy it and use it with other smart cities sensors and services.

Getting more from street lights
Meanwhile, GE is partnering with two cities -- San Diego and Jacksonville -- on pilot projects to see how to get even more from intelligent street lights. Both cities will test a new LED street lighting system from GE.

Smart lights containing sensors will be connected to an industrial Internet and the system will be tested to find opportunities for using the data. San Diego’s test will find ways to use the lights for smart parking. Jacksonville’s pilot will leverage remote monitoring and GPS mapping to find ways to make the lights even more efficient.

San Diego has already had success using GE’s lights to reduce energy use. Last year, it connected 3,000 lights to LightGrid, a wireless system that lets the city remotely access and control them. The city says the switch helped it cut maintenance and electricity costs by $250,000 annually.

Get Smart Street Lighting 101 …
Want to see what smart street lights could do for your city? Get Smart Street Lighting 101, a free eBook that’s packed with useful information and brief case studies highlighting the benefits cities gain as they move to integrated street light networks that can serve as a backbone for other smart city applications. It’s free for Smart Cities Council members. Download your copy today.