Why the humble street light is at the heart of Ipswich’s smart city evolution

For decades the humble street light has stood dutifully alongside pathways, roads and streets, bringing light and ambience to communities.

Now, it is poised to be the backbone of a smart city network that will completely change the way cities and neighbourhoods are managed in the future.

Ipswich is at the forefront of this evolution after Ipswich City Council changed its planning scheme to allow council to own street lights installed in new developments.

In Queensland, there are three types of lighting ownership. Rate 1 lights are fully owned and maintained by network operator Energex, rate 2 lights are Energex owned and maintained but originally provided by council, rate 3 lights are council owned and maintained.

In late 2016 in a Queensland first, council amended its planning scheme to mandate any new street lights installed in the city as rate 3.

As of April 2018 council owns about 650 street lights, with the city’s remaining 24,000 still owned by Energex. However with major developments taking shape at Springfield and in the Ripley Valley, thousands more street lights will be added to the council-owned network in coming years.

Having full ownership of the lights and poles will allow for not only the installation of environmentally sustainable LED lights but also smart technologies such as Wi-Fi, climate censors and cameras, among others.

Already in Kansas City, Missouri a two-mile corridor of the city has been linked into the Internet of Things via 125 smart LED street lights.

The Wi-Fi linked sensor laden streetlights help to produce a live map, which shows users the exact location of streetcars in the city, as well as traffic flow speeds and available parking spaces.

The possibilities are seemingly endless.

In the meantime, council is working on two pilot projects using 26 lights each at two new housing estates to gain a better understanding of energy usage and opportunities for smart city application.

Future plans are also being made to trial the rollout of various smart technologies following the initial pilot project.

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