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Author's profile photo Marlyn Zelkowitz

Insights from analyzing sensor data can lead to better outcomes for cities

Co-written with Jonathan Weinert, Lighting + IoT, Philips Lighting

City leaders are empowered by citizens to address local, regional, and even global challenges. The challenges city leaders face worldwide are similar and tied to their timeless mission of public service. City leaders and civil servants aim to improve public health and safety, respond to weather-related emergencies, and deliver services to citizens and stakeholders. Because city resources are limited, city leaders use innovative technology as a platform for common urban action.

Smart lighting is one important on-ramp city leaders use to improve safety, sustainability, and citizens’ lives. How does this work? LED-based smart lighting consumes less energy than conventional lighting, and significant additional energy savings can be achieved with presence detection and scheduling based on knowledge of traffic and pedestrian patterns on the city streets. The physical infrastructure of the light pole can house multiple sensors, such as air quality monitors, noise monitors, gunshot detectors, and others. Data from these edge devices connects to a digital core for further analysis by and insights for city leaders. Information on air quality can be used to notify citizens who suffer from asthma or respiratory ailments to avoid certain locales or even stay indoors when they may be at risk due to particulates in the air. Information from noise monitors can inform police to respond to possible criminal activity or threats, for faster response.

Data must be contextualized to yield useful insights. For example, city leaders could combine sensor data on air quality with public health analysis and geospatial intelligence. Such analysis makes the data actionable. Over time, data analysis enables predictions. And when city leaders can better predict air quality, they can inform citizens so that they stay healthier, resulting in better outcomes for all.

Successful smart cities use a digital platform that can collect data from multiple edge devices, combine it with other sources of information, and contextualize it to yield actionable insights and predictions. This is exactly what the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has done with its Philips CityTouch and SAP SE implementation, which integrates data from connected street lights with data from city enterprise resource planning (ERP) and asset management systems in a single integrated dashboard. By linking Philips CityTouch connected street lighting management with real-time situational awareness based on the SAP HANA platform, city authorities benefit from a 360-degree view of data from multiple sources—for example, parking and traffic controls. Using historical data with visualization and analytics tools, city authorities can gain new insights into trends and operations, manage costs, and improve long-term planning.

The installation, completed in phases over three years, installed a total of 91,000 connected light points in the city—an upgrade to 70% of the lighting in Buenos Aires. The system saved 50% in operational and energy costs, and significantly reduced annual CO2 emissions.

In this way, the smart street lights are part of an ecosystem which uses a digital platform. The platform becomes more valuable as city leaders put more sensors into the vertical infrastructure, analyze the data, and form actionable insights—a virtuous circle. The system is scalable, allowing the city to implement new applications while working within the existing infrastructure.

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