Meet San Diego's new IoT platform — and build your own

By Jesse Berst, Smart Cities Council

Data — and the ability to act on it in real-time — is the very bedrock of a smart city. But what’s an efficient way to build the data infrastructure you need? San Diego provides a great roadmap.

San Diego is using its street lights as a springboard. As it’s equipping some of its lights with energy-efficient LEDs, it will also be adding sensors connecting to a powerful data network to help it make the public safer, improve traffic flow and more.

At the Smart Cities Council, we have found that smart street lights are a great first smart cities project. Their energy efficiency provides a relatively quick, easy win and they’re a great launch pad for so much more.

Here’s how San Diego is doing it.

It begins with energy efficiency
San Diego’s IoT installation is prompted by an effort to slash the city’s power bill. Under the plan, the fixtures of 14,000 lights will be converted to efficient Evolve LED luminaries from Current, powered by GE.

This upgrade accounts for about a quarter of the city’s street lights and is forecast to cut energy costs by $2.4 million each year.

Why stop there?
Cities can stretch their LED retrofit investment by adding sensors and other technology while they’re working on the light pole. And that’s what San Diego is doing.

In the first phase, it’s installing 3,200 Current CityIQ sensor nodes during the LED upgrade. And that’s just the beginning. It could possibly double that amount before the year is over.

Benefits beyond energy
The new lighting fixtures reduce maintenance costs. Using Current’s LightGrid, managers will be able to optimize and check the maintenance of each light remotely through a single dashboard. But the addition of sensors carry the benefits well beyond lighting.

Parking sensors will track spaces and direct drivers to the nearest empty one, saving them time and frustration. Gunshot detectors will provide first responders with valuable information. And the city can build on that platform at any time.

AT&T will provide the secure, wireless data backbone using its LTE network. Intel is providing technology that can process some of the data at the street lights themselves, reducing the amount of data traffic and making each point of network more responsive.


Jesse Berst is chairman of the Smart Cities Council, which works to make cities more livable, workable and sustainable. Register for the Council's Smart Cities Week Silicon Valley, May 8-10 in Santa Clara, CA.


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