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San Diego uses connected streetlights to gather data

More cities around the world have started to embrace the internet of things and incorporate the technology to improve various aspects of community life. In recent years, San Diego has been working towards developing “the world’s largest municipal internet of things” infrastructure by replacing the old streetlights with green lights that gather data through IoT sensors.

The initial goal of the municipality in early 2000s was to save money by reducing energy consumption because the city was going through a financial crisis. So they replaced the sodium vapor streetlamps with LED fixtures which led to estimated savings of $2.2 million per year. Project finalization was expected in some six years.

“We were broke,” explained David Graham, San Diego’s deputy chief operating officer. “In the early 2000s, we went through about a decade of fiscal crisis, and we were trying to find ways to be more efficient, save money and reduce energy usage.”

Once the LED fixtures were up and running, the municipality needed a strategy to fully monitor outdoor lighting, as it was more difficult to detect the level of degradation of the fixtures over time. As a result, “adaptive control program connected streetlights through a wireless network, enabling the city to monitor and manage lights remotely.”

“Now we know exactly how much energy a streetlight is using,” Graham says. “We know if it’s out. We can brighten or dim it, depending on environmental factors.”

A pilot test by the municipality in 2014 involved 40 sensor nodes that monitored traffic in the city center to improve parking.

San Diego is now the first city to pilot GE’s intelligent city platform, as the municipality is looking into the top benefits for the city and the community. This is part of a larger plan that includes the addition of sensors that will sense sound, light and environmental conditions, an upgrade that sums up to a cost of approximately $30 million to the city’s budget.

About the author


From a young age, Luana knew she wanted to become a writer. After having addressed topics such as NFC, startups, and tech innovation, she has now shifted focus to internet security, with a keen interest in smart homes and IoT threats. Luana is a supporter of women in tech and has a passion for entrepreneurship, technology, and startup culture.