Lighting Up LA’s Streets, the Smart Way


Project Details: The Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting is undertaking a pilot project to enhance street lighting through the use of smart technology.

Key Players: Ene-Hub and the Bureau of Street Lighting.

Project Cost: N/A; In the pilot stage.

Benefits: In line with the mission of smart cities, the Bureau of Street Lighting and City of LA sees the potential of embedding digital networks and sensors in street lighting, improving its citizens’ quality of life.

The Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting is testing out “smart nodes,” lighting that bares very little resemblance to the other 400 or so different-styled relic Los Angeles street lamps of the past.

As part of the city’s pilot program, the pencil-shaped smart street light, which resembles, most fittingly, a cigarette holder from a Hollywood noir film, was erected across the street from City Hall. But far from its sleek exterior, inside this 30-feet pole, wires abound for greater mobile connectivity, WiFi, a speaker system, and a USB charging station for phones.

Bureau of Street Lighting
Inside the offices of the Bureau of Street Lighting is a museum dedicated Los Angeles’ array of street lights spanning history.

The brightness and color of the light can be monitored and controlled by the Australian company, Ene-Hub, who designed and developed the smart node. In the future, if the city plans to expand the program, city workers would be able to dim or brighten streetlights, say, outside a sporting arena after an event.

The node can be also custom-fitted to attach a CCTV, assess the air quality or count the number of vehicles to evaluate traffic patterns.

“As street lighting is evolving into the future, going to smart technology is part of that evolution,” said Norma Isahakian, the bureau’s acting director.

The bureau oversees some 220,000 streetlights in the city over an expanse of almost 500 square miles. The smart node pilot is part of other pilots run by the city, along with implemented program that installed some 80 streetlights that allow you to charge your electric car.

Isahakian said the city of LA has been pushing for the last five to ten years, for a “smart city,” and tapping the potential for how street lighting can fit into a highly connective modern world.

Norma Isahakian
Norma Isahakian, acting director of the Bureau of Street Lighting

In 2015, the bureau retrofitted over 110,000 street lamps with Philips Lighting’s CityTouch, another LED lighting system that allows remote monitoring and lighting control through cloud-based technologies – making it the world’s largest retrofitting project undertaken. It inspired other cities like Rome to follow suit.

The pricetag for the smart nodes does run a bit higher than the average street lamp (at about $15-20,000), but the cost savings through LED lighting, has saved the city a significant amount of money.

Other revenue streams from telecom companies like Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, who always seek to boost their mobile service, through 4G and 5G networks, work with the bureau to get attachments added onto street lighting and contributes to the stream of revenue toward the Street Lighting Maintenance Assessment Fund.

Smart Node
The street light designed by the Australian company Ene-Hub can accommodate speakers, electric vehicle car charging, and WiFi and mobile 4G and 5G network connectivity, among other things.

Besides the one pilot smart node across from City Hall, there is one situated by the La Brea Tar Pits. The city hopes that they can install more on the city’s Great Streets program, streets that are designated in every council district for improvement projects.

Isahakian says the bureau says the city is always looking to enhance their electric infrastructure and finding new partners, whether or not they go beyond the pilot phase:

“We like to look at the pilot and evaluate it. We do the pilots to make sure it fits the environment. And the way we deal with all of our companies, we give them a little feedback, which they actually like, because it makes the lighting [system] more robust.”

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