The Big Hairy Audacious Goal for Street Lighting and Smart Controls in Australia and New Zealand

Mon, 2017-04-03 07:15 -- Adam Beck

There is a smart street lighting initiative in Europe called the 'Humble Lamppost'. It has a simple, yet big, hairy, and audacious goal of deploying 10 million smart lampposts cross EU cities. Yep, that's right, 10 million smart lampposts.

Now to be clear, I didn’t say achieving the goal was simple, but rather the goal itself was simple. Ten million smart lampposts. It’s a market making initiative above all.

It's a nice project, and an ambitious one. Some may say a little crazy as well. But why is this relevant? Well, if the 3rd International Street Lighting + Smart Controls Conference in Brisbane in March was anything to go by, the ‘humble lamppost’ could be Australia and New Zealand’s enabling strategy for unleashing a smart cities revolution. 

The street light is ground zero for smart cities – an ideal means for starting the journey and building the movement. In 2015 the Smart Cities Council produced a Smart Street Lighting Guide to highlight the benefits cities are accruing as they move to integrated streets light networks that can serve as a backbone for other smart cities applications.

Building a smart cities movements underpinned by smart street lighting is more than just having an agenda, and doing proof of concepts. Movements are about tactical and strategic actions, ensuring there is a series of well-organised interventions, standards, and mutually reinforcing objectives across sectors, and that a clear common goal is cemented in the psyche. And the IPWEA’s Street Lighting and Smart Controls (SLSC) Programme Roadmap, has exactly this. But does it have a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)? 

The SLSC Advisory Council has adopted a mission for the Programme, which is to accelerate the efficient adoption of modern street lighting and smart controls technologies and best practices throughout Australia and New Zealand in support of the government's energy productivity and smart cities agenda. And the principal Programme key performance indicator is the proportion of street lights in Australia and New Zealand (measured separately) with LED luminaires installed and either fitted with smart controls or smart-controls enabled.

As IPWEA’s SLSC Roadmap points out, of the 2.5+ million street lights in Australia alone, only 10% have LED luminaires. And of those 245,000 LED street lights, approximately 2,200 are connected to smart controls. That's less than 0.1%. Ugh!

As displayed at the conference, governments around the world are embracing LED street lighting and smart control strategies. From India to Atlanta, London to Nova Scotia, we are seeing massive deployments. And in our own backyard, impressive numbers from Auckland, Victoria and the ACT. We need to celebrate these leadership actions locally when the opportunity presents itself. But how about that BHAG? 

Could Australia and New Zealand set the world’s greatest smart street light goal? And I don’t mean in numbers, but rather in ambition. In overcoming the complex layers of constraints we are facing, and the barriers that confront us across legal, governance, and political spectrums. With the EU working on the humble lamppost, can we work on the ‘great street light' initiative? 

And what about the BHAG to replace all street lights in Australia and New Zealand with LED luminaires and smart controls within 10 years? Could we be bold enough to go there? Should we?

Our industry is primed for action and deployment, and enthusiasm is building. Significant demand aggregation could be and should be achievable in Australia, so long as we stay focused on communicating the outcomes and sharing best practice exemplars. As Ed Ebrahimian from the City of Los Angeles pointed out, these things pay for themselves, and with the demonstrated emissions reductions, it's a ‘no-brainer’!

This is why a ‘Humble Lamppost’ type program in Australia and New Zealand could be the key ingredient to unleashing a smart street lighting and controls revolution in the region and accelerate our momentum in building a smart cities movement. Because after all, the ‘great street light’ is not only a light delivery mechanism, it's the springboard for enabling multiple smart cities initiatives through the Internet of Things (IoT).

With the IPWEA’s SLSC Programme in full swing, the opportunity to ‘go bold or go home’ is right now. All movements start with a bold statement – sometimes it's a crazy idea. Replacing all street lights in Australia and New Zealand with LED luminaires and smart controls within 10 years sounds just the right type of BHAG we need.