Energy saving is one of the key issues for the ‘smart city’. Intelligent street-lighting provides part of the solution, but existing systems are not sensitive or precise enough. This is where optic sensors come in.
There is nothing new in the principle of smart street-lighting that can save a lot of energy by coming on only after nightfall when people or cars are passing by. However, in most cases, these systems rely solely on movement detection sensors, which do not for example take account of unfavourable weather conditions. Now an Italian company called Smart-I has developed the SmartEye system. This approach employs a camera which adapts to urban lighting and uses data-processing algorithms to analyse the area in the vicinity of the streetlight and process the information in real time to feed into the city lighting management system. L’Atelier met up with Smart-I founder Mauro Di Giamberardino at the Pioneers Festival 2013, which took place in Vienna in late October.
Detecting people and taking account of bad weather conditions
The algorithms developed by Smart-I enable the system to analyse the images captured by the camera, detect the movement of people or traffic as they move through its field of vision, and recognise and categorise them. Mauro Di Giamberardino explains that “SmartEye is different from other intelligent lighting technologies in that it intuitively understands what’s really happening in front of the optic sensor.” How it works is that “when the algorithm analyses the environment it does not simply detect movements but actually understands them and is able for example to determine the speed and direction of the vehicles it spots, so as to ensure that the road lighting conforms to the legislation in force.” SmartEye can also determine potential bad weather in the area and so enable the city lighting management system to adjust the luminosity level of the street-lights to gloomy conditions, not just at night but also during the day. In fact use in daytime conditions is an important aspect of the system. “We decided to make our product suitable not just for public street lighting, but also for the private sector,” reveals the Smart-I founder. “We can for example provide a car park with a system that uses directional lighting to inform customers where the vacant spots are, or as part of a reservation service.”
Energy savings plus security uses
In addition, Di Giamberardino points out that the SmartEye functionality can be extended into the field of security. “Analysing images could help identify abnormal behaviour such as the kind of reaction you see among people when there’s an accident or a fire. The system could then send an alert to be handled by the staff responsible for managing the lighting system,” he explains. SmartEye is already in use in some Italian cities including Rome and L'Aquila, and the company hopes to extend its operations throughout Europe very soon. Remote-controlled streetlights are already making energy savings of 15% where they are installed and the Smart-I founders claim to be able to achieve savings of 49% on traditional city street-lighting. In addition, when the system is combined with the use of low-energy bulbs such as LED, which already cut energy consumption by 50%, the technology could slash energy consumption by 80%, claims Di Giamberardino, which would translate into cost savings for major cities of some €4 million a year. In fact as long ago as 2008, healthcare, lifestyle and lighting company Philips came up with a sustainable city lighting concept based on the Light Blossom, an LED-fitted street light in the form of a flower, which recharges itself with solar power from photovoltaic panels and/or by using its rotating, wind turbine-like, petals to collect wind energy.