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The great outdoors – lighting the way to smart city networks….

street lights

The focus for smart lighting is shifting from interior to exterior and the outdoor lighting industry is ready to flick the switch. Martin Allcock, CP Electronics’ OEM Sales Manager, looks at how new technology is shaping the smart cities of tomorrow.

The proliferation of smart technology and the internet of things (IoT) has galvanized the modern home. We’re currently living in the era of the ‘smart revolution’ and this isn’t expected to slow down. A market report by Statista estimates that the ‘Smart Home’ market will grow at a CAGR of 13.2% between 2019-2022, and be worth US$6,768m by 2023. We’re connecting our TVs to the internet and can control our heating, washing machines and dishwashers through the tap of a screen.

This technological revolution is extending beyond the home. The ‘smart city network’ is entering the public’s consciousness – people are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits these exterior sensors and connected systems offer and are beginning to trust them.

Monitoring everything from air and noise pollution to lighting, the introduction of ‘smart city networks’ is putting sustainability, health and safety and energy efficiency at the forefront.

Taking the indoors outdoors

Neon and sodium street lamps have been used to illuminate parks, pathways and building perimeters, retail parks and warehouse bays for decades. Street lighting gives the general public a sense of security and can often act as a deterrent to criminal activity.

However, traditional street lighting is typically left on or dimmed during the early hours of the morning when no one is around, costing in both energy and finances. In April 2019, Hampshire County Council made the move to switch lights off on certain residential streets for three hours a night, between 1am and 4am, equating to £230,000 of energy cost savings per year.

Alongside this, turning street lighting off during the darker hours brings its own security concerns.  There’s a risk that crime rates may spike in the areas where lights have been switched off, and arguably, residents won’t feel as comfortable or as confident as before.

Similar to their indoor counterparts, innovative outdoor lighting solutions feature passive infrared sensors (PIRs) that are added to street lamps and light-up when a human enters the sensor’s radius.

While the principles of outdoor and indoor lighting are similar, there are key differences. Exterior lighting has to withstand harsh elements from the outside environment, such as dust and damp. To combat this, a new breed of smart lighting technology has been developed and addresses these issues with many sensors rated as IP66 and IK08, guaranteeing class-leading protection against impact and the ingress of water and dust.

Smart outdoor lighting is an excellent solution that can help curb energy usage, cut costs and help reduce safety concerns.

Connecting to multiple benefits

Outdoor solutions rely on intuitive controls that detect movement and only light-up when people are nearby. They can be added to lamps and can be programmed to switch off, or to dim down when not needed.

They can also work in relay, using motion detection to detect movement and lighting up the luminaires in front of, above and behind the person. This is a significant step-change to conventional streetlights, which stay lit up at the full output during specifically programmed times, or from dusk till dawn when the photocell detects that there is not enough light.

Importantly, these lighting sensors gather information about the surrounding environment such as footfall and the public’s behaviour. The information is then shared via building or remote management systems to improve knowledge and performance. For the public, this means higher levels of safety and comfort. For owners, they benefit from reduced energy costs and improved data gathering to drive further efficiencies in maintenance.

A new ‘plug and play’ standard

While smart lighting will incur financial savings in the long run, the initial outlay of smart sensors may be difficult for investors, local authorities and building owners to justify. In order to combat this, the outdoor lighting industry must ensure these solutions are specified and future-proofed, so that return on investment (ROI) is recognised.

One of the world’s most respected manufacturers, Signify – formerly Philips Lighting, has established a new industry standard for outdoor lighting control. The Sensor-Ready Driver (SR) is paving the way to a smart city network, the SR driver accommodates technologies, components and gateways from SR partners such as CP Electronics, thereby increasing choice, minimising risk and ensuring a genuinely scalable approach for specifiers.

In the words of Dervan Alleyne, Signify’s OEM Commercial Director for the UK and Ireland: ‘If you’re using SR today, you’re future proofing for where the industry is heading, such as multiple sensing and the demand for data’.

At the heart of each system lies an SR certified driver, such as Philips’ own Xitanium digital SR LED driver. This is a version of DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface), the widely accepted standard for the lighting industry. This driver essentially powers each sensor in its network, eliminating the need for a wired supply for each one.

The choice of sensor will be driven by the exact nature of the application and the desired benefits. For example, specifiers will need to consider whether the outdoor lighting or street lights operate as stand-alone units, or if they work together. Another factor is whether dimming is a requirement, or if they simply need to trigger when certain levels of light have been achieved.

Thanks to the growing interest in smart cities, a wide range of externally rated sensors are already available, all compatible with SR drivers, each offering a range of performance parameters. It’s certain that innovation will continue to drive advances, giving investors in the technology and installers a wealth of choice.

A recent development is Legrand’s ground-breaking Wattstopper FDP-301 Series, shortly to be introduced into the UK by CP Electronics. Externally rated and with a detection range of 30m diameter, Wattstopper sensors can be mounted up to 12m high, making them suitable for virtually all outdoor lights.

Installation is quick and easy too – the sensors simply plug into the lighting unit and can be commissioned, monitored and controlled either locally or through the smart city network, giving engineers greater flexibility and control. Functionality in the series includes motion detection, ambient lighting levels and even dimming control so that the public never need to walk into a totally dark area. The firmware can also be upgraded, thus future-proofing the product and installation.

Finally, for commissioning or if any settings need to be changed at a later date, the Wattstopper sensors can be easily programmed and managed via a smart device such as a smartphone or tablet.

Switching it up for smart cities

The fact is, the smart city is virtually here, and sensors are lighting the way forward. The key, as with all projects, is to ensure that when switching to new solutions, they deliver the benefits required at optimum cost in the area specified.

Lighting up the outdoors will require a unique approach depending on the street or building in question. This will come down to factors such as footfall, costs, the needs of the people, whether it is a high-crime area, environmental issues, and budgets.

However, with the SR platform and a steadily increasing range of technologies, there is a solution that should fit most, if not all needs, that will take us into the next generation of connectivity.

For more about CP Electronics, please visit www.cpelectronics.co.uk.