This post was written by Keith Dawson for UBM Tech’s community Web site All LED Lighting, sponsored by Philips Lumileds. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the All LED Lighting site may go dark at any time. This material is Copyright 2013-2015 by UBM Americas.


Networked Street Lights

More players are placing their bets on wireless network control of LED lights, and two recent announcements highlight the trend.

As we wrote about the "

  • Zero Site" collaboration of Philips Lighting and Ericsson regarding cellphone-enhancing equipment on urban lamp posts, other contenders were jockeying for position in the business of helping cities add networked services to the already financially attractive idea of upgrading street lights to LEDs.

    Silver Spring Networks
    We have mentioned this new-breed company, which went public in 2011, in the context of a project to give Copenhagen and Paris wireless platforms for networked city services along with their money-saving LED lighting upgrades.

    Now Silver Spring has announced that it will provide its IPv6-based wireless mesh to its long-time customer Florida Power & Light in the Miami-Dade County region in Florida. The plan involves 75,000 street lights, and the company calls it North America's largest networked street light deployment under contract. (Copenhagen will be 200,000 lights when it is built out.)

    The press release does not say what functions FPL plans to implement over time on Silver Spring's network, beyond lighting control. Audio and video surveillance perhaps? Sliver Spring does not emphasize surveillance applications on its website (the word is mentioned only once there), so the Orwellian possibilities lurking beneath the surface of such technology are left to be explored by others in Newark, NJ and Las Vegas.

    Hubbell wiSCAPE
    Hubbell Building Automation has announced a suite of products under the wiSCAPE moniker wiSCAPE. Its purpose is to provide wireless networked control of street lights.

    A wiSCAPE Gateway, we are told, can gather 1,000 wiSCAPE fixture modules into a single network. The press release does not mention what technology is behind the mesh network thus created, or whether or not it supports the virtually inexhaustible IPv6 address space. The mesh is "secure, peer-to-peer, self-organizing, and self-healing," Hubbell claims. The release does say the network operates over the "robust 2.4 GHz ISM (Industrial, Scientific, and Medical) radio band" -- without mentioning that this licensed band is also shared by unlicensed WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and a number of other uses. At least the unlicensed devices are required by FCC regulations (under Part 15) not to interfere with licensed ones.

    Hubbell goes back a long way to origins in 1888. Its many acquired companies (I count 33 of them between 1969 and 2006) operate in all phases of the lighting business. Therefore it is no surprise to see Hubbell Building Automation covering all street-lighting bases with the claim that the wiSCAPE system "works with a wide variety of lighting sources including: LED, induction, MH-HPS-LPS, incandescent, halogen, and plasma." I expect it works more satisfactorily with LED than with some of the others.

    The modules currently listed under the wiSCAPE umbrella include a cellular modem, a motion sensor, and a photo sensor. So wiSCAPE is ready to provide at least a few services beyond lighting control, diagnostics, and dimming. We can expect the complement of modules to fill out over time.

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