Toronto town settles on smart lights for now (UPDATED)

April 11, 2018
Broader smart city functions could come later, but the clever, cost-saving LED lights will at first stick closer to illumination purposes.

Broader smart city functions could come later, but the clever, cost-saving LED lights will at first stick closer to illumination purposes.

In another reminder that there's “smart” and then there's “really smart,” the large town of Richmond Hill, Ontario, has replaced conventional street lights with smart, Internet-connected LED luminaires that have slashed energy and maintenance costs, but where the really smart stuff is yet to come.

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Framingham, MA-based renewable energy services firm Ameresco led a team of contractors that will soon complete installation of 13,000 LED luminaires from Halifax, Nova Scotia-based LED Roadway Lighting.

Using wireless mesh topology and management software from Itron and its newly acquired Silver Spring Networks, and apps from Sterling, VA-based TerraGo, the town of nearly 200,000 people near Toronto anticipates cutting its lighting-related electricity and maintenance bill by "nearly $1 million" annually, a TerraGo spokesperson said.

TerraGo apps support maintenance and commissioning and have enabled engineers to reduce commissioning time to 2 hours using iPads, from what had been a couple of days, the spokesperson noted, adding that work started last year and most of the smart street lights are already operating.

The LED lighting system will consume around 50% to 60% less energy than the previous high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps, in part because of the low-power nature of LEDs, and in part because the control system improves managers' ability to adjust light settings including on/off and brightness. The system also provides a centralized view on operations, saving 80% in costs by minimizing the need to send maintenance scouts out on the road.

Authorities in Richmond Hill's town hall (pictured) might one day reach for the sky of smart city functions, but their first step is to go with smart lighting features. (Photo credit: CCC2012 via Wikimedia.)

The luminaires are outfitted with control nodes from Ireland's SELC.

Ameresco has also ensured that the street lighting infrastructure can accommodate additional chips and sensors that could support future “smart city” functions, such as monitoring and managing traffic flow, detecting available parking spaces, measuring air quality, and so forth.

While vendors in the lighting industry are playing up such capabilities as part of the industry's Internet of Things (IoT) future, many current deployments such as those in Guadalajara, Spain and Knoxville, TN settle for smart lighting functions while reserving a place for broader smart city applications in the future.

Silver Spring, now called Itron, has been involved in many smart lighting projects using its Starfish wireless mesh Internet topology, and its SLV (Streetlight.Vision) management control software, such as in London.

In one project aimed at leaping into the future, before becoming part of Liberty Lake, WA-based Itron, Silver Spring was part of a group including Panasonic that was to build smart lighting-based smart city functions into a modern enclave under construction near Denver International Airport.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

*Updated Apr. 12, 2018 11:15 AM for deployment details.

*Updated Apr. 16, 2018 9:53 am. TerraGo had originally said annual savings would be $1.5 million, and changed it to “nearly $1 million” after this story ran, explaining that they simply provided LEDs Magazine with the wrong number.

About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.