Bringing smart lighting to decentralised cities and rural areas

In 2020, over 56 percent of the world’s population was urban, and the United Nations estimated that urbanisation could reach 68 percent by 2050. However, the Covid-19 pandemic may curb this trend, as the rise of remote working may encourage more people to leave cities in search of a different way of life.

The future may be about decentralised cities, making the traditional metropolis model evolve towards polycentric, multi-nodal conglomerates. This would create a “new normal” for urban density — and push urban IoT infrastructures to change accordingly.

What does this mean for Smart Lighting? The standard case for street lighting is about city centres or densely clustered areas, where it is generally simple and cost-effective to upgrade existing lamps to LED and design a mesh IoT network. Once connected, smart luminaires can be monitored and managed from a centralised software system, while some gateways act as border routers, network coordinators, and data concentrators. Under normal operating conditions, a single gateway can manage up to 400 connected streetlights.

If considering decentralised cities or rural areas, the scenario may be completely different. Think of suburbs and countryside villages in Europe or the US, for instance. Due to the low population density, we may have dispersed groups of a few streetlights, or even single isolated lamps. This makes it difficult and expensive to reach them, as more gateways would be needed to reliably connect them to the mesh network.

Installing more gateways to connect hard to reach streetlights increases complexity and generates additional costs, as average costs per light point soar. What if we had a different lighting device serving both as a node and a gateway? May it connect single or isolated group of lamps to the existing IoT infrastructure?

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