The Smart Streetlight

Today's regular streetlamps turn on or off when a photocell attached to them reacts to darkness or sunlight. They use one level of power, and when they burn out, the only way they get fixed is if someone notices.

Smart streetlamps, however, are controlled from a central point to turn on and off, dim, and flash continually in an emergency, like a car. This is what five test "smart" streetlamps in San Francisco are capable of doing. Run by Pacific Gas and Electric, these lamps use 100 LEDs to produce light similar to that of a regular streetlamp.

The new streetlamps can send and receive data, so a central monitoring station--or even a cell phone that connects to a secure website--can remotely program them to turn on and off. Furthermore, the illumination can be changed (presumably during dusk or dawn), thereby decreasing overall power usage. Even if full power is used, however, each streetlamp would draw 127 watts, compared to 290 watts for regular streetlamps.

San Francisco isn't the only city changing the way it lights its streets. According to Inhabitat, New York City is expected to test and install LED streetlamps this year. The Department of Transportation, in coordination with the Office for Visual interaction, is designing the new lamps with two light lenses that shine light not only directly below, but in different directions. The new lamps will therefore save money and energy, while also providing a safer habitat for New Yorkers.

To see the original blog in the New York Times, click here.