While many cities talk about smart streetlights or engage in small pilot projects to attach one or two devices to several of their streetlights, San Diego, Calif., isn't waiting around. As a result, many are now calling it the smartest city in the world.
In late 2018, the city revealed at the Smart City Expo World Congress that it would begin building what it called "the world's largest smart city IoT platform," which would involve rolling out new digital applications designed to improve public safety, traffic and parking using a network of smart streetlights.
The city also announced it was committed to adding another 1,000 CityIQ sensor nodes, plus a first-of-its-kind street lighting controls utility interface designed to boost LED streetlight efficiency by an additional 20 percent. This will bring the city's total CityIQ sensor nodes to 4,200, which are installed across 14,000 new individually metered LED fixtures.
The utility interface system is the result of teamwork with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) to create joint software that will interface with the smart streetlights and transfer streetlight energy usage to the SDG&E billing system. This first-of-its-kind system will automate streetlighting metering, allowing energy to be billed based on actual consumption, rather than a flat dusk-to-dawn rate.
As a result of this project, the city expects to save about $250,000 per year on utility charges.
"SDG&E's use of third-party meter data was new, but coupling that capability with a consumption-based concept is pioneering," said Erik Caldwell, the city's interim deputy chief operating officer.
All facets of the smart streetlighting project are expected to save the city an estimated $3.6 million annually in reduced energy and maintenance costs, while enabling a wide range of data interfacing technology and smart city applications designed to improve safety, monitor pedestrian activity and monitor traffic patterns, measure weather patterns and pollution, and use cameras and other sensors to provide information on parking availability. One of the most important features of several of the sensors is that they will allow first responders to reach their destinations much faster.
"Our ability to leapfrog our smart city technology ahead in both energy savings and scale is a testament to the hard work and ongoing collaboration of many public and private stakeholders," Caldwell said.
The city plans to use the continually accruing savings from this project to invest in further expansion of the smart streetlighting technologies. One possibility is using specially mounted cameras focused on the streets to monitor street conditions, such as potholes that need to be filled, and to even detect potholes in the making, so they can be repaired before they become worse and more expensive to repair.