How cities are using street lights to improve safety

This information provided by Smart Cities Council North America.

It’s hard to find a city where crime isn’t at or near the top of the list of citizen concerns. With tight budgets, though, there’s only so much you can do to put more officers on the streets.

Intelligent street lighting, however, is emerging as one of the tools that’s helping to make streets safer — in addition to cutting your power bill. And more cities are adopting it. As you’ll read below, Onvia found nearly 250 cities looked into new lights last year. Read on to find out why. — Kevin Ebi

The major draw of smart lights isn’t just saving energy – it’s making public spaces safer. Government agencies across the U.S. are using smart lighting technology as a tool to help fight crime, assist in emergencies and better serve their citizens.

Street lights, since they are already fixtures on every street corner of every major city, provide the perfect vehicles to integrate smart technology into everyday public life without seeming obtrusive. A smart light can host sensors with myriad uses like tracking foot traffic, collecting air quality data or even making public spaces safer and more pleasant.

Coolidge Park, on the riverfront in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee, has benefitted from the addition of LED smart lights. The park was notoriously unsafe, with gatherings of gangs that sometimes led to gunfire. But the city partnered with local company Global Green Lighting to install smart lights that could be controlled remotely, causing them to brighten, dim or flash. When the lights were flashed, the gangs scattered and over time the city eventually reclaimed the park.

Smart streetlights can contain gunshot detection technology that uses microphones to record “gunshot-like” sounds on city streets. Data from these systems help public safety agencies map out high crime areas and respond more quickly to shooting events. Fresno, CA and Peoria, IL are examples of cities that have recently launched such programs, with public schools increasingly looking to adopt similar technology.

Along with hosting sound sensors, smart lighting systems can contain built-in speakers, used for broadcasting public address announcements in case of emergencies or simply playing music to add to the ambiance of a public space.

And sometimes, smart lights really are just lights. Pittsburgh, one of the cities on the cutting edge of smart city technology, installed a holiday display of 27,000 LED lights – all of them drawing their power from wind turbines.

In the last year, Onvia tracked 895 opportunities for LED lighting in its B2G Intelligence System (B2GIS). 248 of these came from cities and townships – more than any other agency type – suggesting that energy-efficient and safety-enhancing lighting will continue to be popular among smart cities, all while providing opportunities for lighting vendors to partner with these agencies.

Nick Schiffler is a business-to-government (B2G) market analyst and content marketer for business intelligence firm Onvia. Follow Onvia on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay up to date with the latest government market insights.