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Why street lights are a good place to start a Smart City revolution

The team at #urbancontrol have diverse backgrounds, but at some point or another we have all worked within the street lighting industry. We got together to discuss one of the subjects we find ourselves being questioned on regularly; the significant role our street lights have to play in the growth of Smart Cities. And we thought we’d share our conclusions with you.

So what is a Smart City and what on earth has it got to do with street lights?

This is something we get asked quite often, given the nature of our jobs. It is actually a good question and one that we believe has strategic significance in the growth of Smart Cities across the UK.

Before we answered it though, we took a moment to go back to basics and set the scene.

We all know that ‘Smart Cities’ is one of, if not the, biggest buzz words around right now. But what does it actually mean?

Forgive our unsophisticated sources, but Wikipedia is a great place to go if you want a concise, easy-to-understand explanation for most things.

“A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) with Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets”

No doubt in a year’s time, the definition of a Smart City will have evolved further. In fact, the very nature of a Smart City dictates that as end-user needs change, so will the objectives of a Smart City.

But back to the question of what the humble lamp post has got to do with a Smart City. We believe that there are three core reasons why the street light has more than just a lighting role to play in the future of our cities and towns.

1. They are not small

The first point of strategic significance is their height. Lamp posts (or ‘lighting columns’ as those of us in the ‘biz’ like to call them) are tall and therefore they provide an excellent place to position a node or a sensor to collect and transmit Smart City data. Data such as pollution levels, traffic flow, foot fall and so on. Put simply they do a very good job at being an aerial.

2. They exist and don’t move

The second point is that lamp posts don’t tend to move. They are a permanent and common feature throughout the modern city landscape. This, coupled with the fact that they are already in existence, means that they are a ready-made infrastructure that can provide consistent information.

3. Ready-made power bank

The third, and what we considered to be the most useful feature of a street light, is that they have power. All new Smart City technology needs some form of power and our good old friend the street light comes with that, as standard.


So, is the Smart City the future? Yes… without a doubt technology will continue to enhance our lives and infiltrate more and more of our everyday activities. Will the humble lamp post play a part? Yes! And we would go as far as to say that our street lighting network is the ready-made backbone of the Smart City revolution.

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