City to consider 'smart' LED street lights

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 18/08/2014
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WELLINGTON CITY COUNCIL

LIGHT ME UP: How Findlay Tce in Tawa looked before and after its conversion to LED light.

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Street lights
WELLINGTON CITY COUNCIL
LIGHT ME UP: How Findlay Tce in Tawa looked before and after its conversion to LED light.

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Wellington wants to be the first city in the southern hemisphere with street lights that track runaway dogs, flash when someone is in danger and dim when there is no one around.

A city council committee will this week consider whether to upgrade the capital's 18,000 street lights with brighter LED bulbs and digital technology that interacts with smartphones, tablet computers and GPS satellites.

They would also be fitted with infra-red sensors so they can dim to about 10 per cent of full power when no-one is around and illuminate whenever someone walks by.

Paul Glennie, the city council's team leader of strategic planning, said all sorts of services could be delivered once the capital's street lights were all "talking to each other" across a wireless connection.

Wellingtonians could use their smartphones or tablets to tap into the lights and track how far away a rubbish truck was or see which lamppost their microchipped dog was sniffing around.

Motorists could be directed to available parking spaces via their GPS devices.

City officials could also adjust light levels via their smart-devices or a text message whenever heavy rain or snow hit the city, or when emergency services required.

"It could be that street lights actually flash outside a property that has called for an ambulance," Glennie said.

LED lights use less power but produce better light, and illuminate to 100 per cent without the need for a warm-up period.

That means there would be no danger to public safety but energy use could drop by up to 95 per cent, Glennie said.

"Currently we leave the lights on all night whether there's people around or not. But if we can turn them down when no one is around then no one should really be affected."

Creating the southern hemisphere's first "smart" light network could cost between $10 million and $20m but save capital ratepayers about $2.1m each year in energy savings.

Glennie said all suburban street lights would be converted, as well as some on the fringe of the CBD.

"We haven't considered using them in places like Courtenay Place where night-time activity is so high."

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the proposed smart lights could prove to be an incredibly important initiative for the city.

"It's not often that you improve safety, improve the look of the city, and reduce costs all at the same time."

Having all the lights connected to a central control room meant outages would be detected immediately, rather than relying on members of the public to phone in, she said.

Earlier this year, Dutch city Eindhoven introduced smart lights that turned themselves off when nobody was around and changed colour according to residents' preferences.

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- The Dominion Post

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