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Smart streetlight bods Telensa nearly double full-year revenues

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Why?

OK I get the "ooo we can alter it wireless bit", but surely a cheap arse light sensor on the top will be far cheaper over the long run.

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Re: Why?

Presumably there's the option to be a bit cleverer, e.g. on low use roads turn off every other light until a sensor detects traffic approaching. The fast light up time of LED vs the old sodium bulbs should make that practical. Or even go the whole hog and turn them all off until something approaches and then have 10 ahead and 2 behind the traffic turn on. I think I may have got that idea from an advert.

You could do similar tricks in residential areas after a certain time to stop the bastard street light opposite my house requiring me to have black out curtains in the bedroom. You could maybe to that with a timer but wireless control would let you alter things on the fly, e.g. some sort of incident requiring the emergency services and you ramp all the lights in the area up to max brightness.

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Re: Why?

Smart LED lights may be able to turn on when they see someone coming, then off again... yes this is paradoxical, but if it works then it'll save electricity.

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Re: Why?

"surely a cheap arse light sensor on the top will be far cheaper over the long run."

it depends what they're sensing. If, say, they're sensing a pedestrian or vehicle walking along the street the lights can be turned off completely when there's nobody about but turned on when there's someone in range. If they're able to communicate the next one along can also be turned on so as to light up the area the traveller is moving towards. That not only saves power but also cuts light overall pollution although the neighbours might be annoyed by them switching on and off.

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Re: Why?

But will they differentiate between coming and going? What happens if the 'comings' are from opposite sides?

What happens if a 'comer' stops under a street light to ask directions of a young lady who happens to be standing there? Would the light have been on because she was there or would it have gone out because she wasn't moving (much)?

Could we end up with streets behaving like disco light-shows?

On a slightly related topic, back around the spring/early summer of 1965, a mate and I were hitch-hiking from London to Somerset along the A4 (this is when the M4 only went as far as Reading).

We weren't making much progress and had only got as far as Newbury by about 1 in the morning.

Struggling along the deserted main road (probably London Road) as we walked westwards, my mate decided to stop for a fag. He leaned against a lamp-post while he lit up and the moment his backpack touched the post all the lights along the road went out. He had such a fright I couldn't stop laughing. It was almost as if the time-switch was watchng him.

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Re: Why?

I thought that the idea of LED streetlights was that using LED saved a shed load of money. Any dynamic switching of the lights based upon traffic will be very small compared to what they have done by using LEDS.

The next step should be to add solar panels to each lamppost plus a battery and then the council can say goodbye to mains leccy costs.

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Re: Why?

'ere, Bob, you, Dave and Greg need to spend the next 40 years driving round checking if the street lights are working'

vs

'ere, Bob, this is the list of street lights that aren't working, we've fired Dave and Greg'

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

The council pay Bob Dave and Greg so little, that sacking Dave and Greg won't save a noticeable amount of money.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

Switching street lights on and off in response to approaching cars is a loopy idea - a car driver needs more forward visibility than you'd be able to achieve in sufficient time and changing the light conditions suddenly would be dangerously confusing for a driver anyway even if he's got headlights on in the car.

The only other real saving might be remote detection of failed units as someone mentioned, but how much extra power are you consuming to run the smart system to achieve that? Is it really cost effective, given the massive savings in consumption of LED lightning over Sodium bulbs? Not convinced.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

didnt they do a similar thing with cats eyes that charged from the headlight beam and remained on for 5-10 seconds as you passed them?

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Re: Why?

I thought that the idea of LED streetlights was that using LED saved a shed load of money.

I had a look at this in relation to a business my employers owned. The savings are pretty marginal. Taking the traditional low pressure sodium deep orange lights used on side roads as an example, the old sodium lamps have a spec of 30 watts. Replacing them with an LED of not dissimilar luminous efficiency but better design will use 22 watts. Streelights are run for an average of about 4,000 hours a year, so at say 10p per kWh, the LED will save 32 kWh a year and £3.20 in energy bills. Now consider that the cost of replacing the post-head fitting and control gear (within the column usually) is about £250 a pop if you can avoid replacing the column, and the economics of LED streetlighting are poor. Admittedly you don't need to replace the lamps every 10,000 hours of running, but you can see the maths is not ideal even including the replacement cost - you still need to inspect LED lamps for function and accident or vandalism damage.

The next step should be to add solar panels to each lamppost plus a battery and then the council can say goodbye to mains leccy costs.

No, on so many levels of technology, practicality and cost. There's working products available off the shelf and have been for several years now, but the costs are high relative to the benefits, and in many urban areas you can't guarantee the panel will see enough sun. In rural Botswana where the grid is unreliable, power connections may not be available, and solar availability is high, maybe. In British towns and cities, mere eco-bling at the taxpayers expense.

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This post has been deleted by its author

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Re: Why?

goodbye to mains leccy costs.

but hello to cleaning costs and replacement costs, if the lifespan of those solar-powered speed signs is anything to go by...

M.

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Re: Why?

didnt they do a similar thing with cats eyes

Yes, and a right nightmare they were too. Flickery-flickering in my peripheral vision as I drive up an otherwise dark road. There was (is?) a set on the A446 near The Belfry (Lichfield road) that I used to suffer regularly.

I don't get on well with LED car lights either, though some are better than others with a higher refresh rate.

M.

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Re: Why?

"surely a cheap arse light sensor on the top will be far cheaper over the long run."

Far from it. By being able to control the lights centrally, you can make them brighter or dimmer when you choose. So, for example, the lights surrounding a football stadium can be brightened before and after the game for public safety whilst crowds are moving, and reduced to normal levels at other times.

The ability of the eye's ability to adjust to lower light levels is worth mentioning too. If you dim the lights gradually, you can considerably reduce your electricity bills without changing perceived light levels.

And a light sensor doesn't let you turn the light off completely at off-peak times, for example after 1am. Being able to avoid lighting costs for as much as half the night is a substantial energy use reduction.

Local and highways authorities are under increasing pressure not just to reduce costs but to demonstrate "green" credentials. This type of technology helps them do exactly that, particularly at a time when they're also upgrading their luminaires to LED.

On final point: bear in mind that energy costs will rise. Authorities are making cost savings now with smart street light controllers; the savings to be made in the decades-long lifespan of the controllers are highly likely to vastly out-weigh the purchase, installation and operating costs, even taking a conservative view of energy cost increases.

[Declaration of interests: I work with Telensa from time to time, although I have not been asked to comment on this article, and am writing entirely on my own behalf. Any inaccuracies are my own.]

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Re: Why?

the savings to be made in the decades-long lifespan of the controllers are highly likely to vastly out-weigh the purchase, installation and operating costs, even taking a conservative view of energy cost increases.

That's a maker's claim, but if you apply any sensible discount rate the business case becomes very dubious. Rising electricity costs are already a social problem, so the expectations of another two decades of increases to placate Greenpeace seem unwise, although I'd agree we'll see continued rises for the next few years. I'd also suggest that the "decades-long lifespan" is unlikely to be realised in the surprisingly hostile operating environment of the typical streetlamp. There's always a few manufacturing or installation faults, and then you've got accidental damage attrition (road accidents, construction and delivery vehicle damage, vandalism, natural hazards like snail infestations, water ingress, very high operating temperature requirements etc etc. The luminaire & LED assembly will get twenty years use at best before the light output degrades below British Standards for highways lighting.

Don't get me wrong, I like LED lighting, its a huge improvement on most gas discharge lamps and is the way to go. But the efficiency and life of the best gas discharge lamps gives LED a run for its money, "dimming and trimming" can be done on modern gas discharge lamps, the spectrum of the best gas discharge lamps is often better than LED. And the other thing is that if local authorities wait a few years, they'll have 300 lumens per watt units available, as opposed to the typical 100-125 lumens per watt of current market offerings. The early adopters of LED streetlights won't see much return other than pioneering the market for others, although that's true of many emerging technologies.

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Coat

I can imagine once you go LED, dimming them to save costs is negligible compared with replacing sodium discharge with LED in the first place - where they'd actually become useful is networking other IoT street furniture - bins that need emptying, gullies that need sludge-gulping, grass that needs cutting, potholes that need filling, areas of road that are flooding ?

I think I may have found a use for IoT after all - maybe I could even connect it to my IoT doorbell and fridge - I've taken it too far haven't I ? Mines the one with the RFID sewn into the lapel

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There's not much efficiency difference between the sodium discharge street lamps and LED. LED advantages are mainly switch on times, better (any) colour perception and apparently lifetime (according to people selling LEDs). Even as LED they're pretty powerful, there are lots of them and they are left on for hours, so energy use adds up quickly. Dimming also helps with light pollution (for astronomers and people trying to sleep).

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TRT
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colour perception... maybe, but is that a good thing? Lights are not everywhere, and when you've bleached all your rods with short-wave containing LED generated light it can take quite a while for you to recover your night vision.

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CRI

Better CRI= less lumens needed.

Plus leds have at least double the effective lumens per watt.. as LED light is highly directional, and HPS/LPS is omnidirectional, and you need a parabole to redirect it, and nobody is cleaning said parabole.

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Re: Better CRI= less lumens needed

Only if you're actually bothered about colour rendition. There's 5 orders of magnitude difference in the amount of energy required between the scotopic and photopic ends of the mesopic range of vision - that's the range of illumination where you don't bleach the rods, and the cones are still detecting photons. It's the ideal range of light levels at night as you still get foveal vision as well as peripheral.

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Re: CRI

Plus leds have at least double the effective lumens per watt.

Not if you want a claimed 100,000 hour operating life and a reasonable warranty they don't.

Discharge lamps are around 100 lumens per watt, so are most LED street light arrays. In the lab there's LEDs already doing 300+ lumens per watt, but those are nowhere near production yet for most applications. If you look at consumer grade devices like LED GU10s, you'll be lucky to find something achieving 90 lumens per watt, with most around half that.

Your claim about better colour rendering allowing reduced lumens might be technically true, but isn't shown in highway lighting practice - the 30W to 22W benefit of LED over gas discharge has nothing to do with the colour, but is because most old sodium fittings were designed with all the skill of fitting a candle in a pie tray, and spilled a quarter of their light skywards. The LED luminaires are generally much better designed to place the light where the designers think that it is needed, and to achieve the same light coverage on the road surface (to meet the relevant British Standard) they avoid wasting light upwards.

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Nice plan but who watches the watchers...

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The Guarding Dark

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the guy who got bored of watching paint dry?

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Trollface

I dunno, Coast Guard?

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TRT
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The office of watcher watching and regulation.

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Anonymous Coward

the watchmaker

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Anonymous Coward

More difficult than it looks.

Outside the highways agency all street lights in the UK are hung off the nearest cable, meaning the rather obvious mains born control switching is right out.

I'd also wonder what happens if the control circuit fails? Devising a fail safe (IE light comes on anyway if dusk falls) is not easy. The best system I know uses an old school "saturatable reactor" to do so.

I guess LED's have gotten cheaper but I wonder if they're as cheap as the systems they replace? Those bulbs might have looked liked an over sized incandescent but they were anything but, and a very great more efficient. The trouble is the SoA in finding failed ones was a man in a van driving around. Just eliminating that process would have saved a lot of time and money. But how often do LED's fail?

As to on demand street lighting. 2 words. Night vision. Or more accurately "night blindness" when they switch off. What may be used is gradual dimming based on traffic density. Not so dramatic but nationwide can save a fortune in electricity.

Council street lighting in the UK is a strange business, with council lighting engineers shown a lot of (completely legal) love by the very big players in the field so well done to these guys for making serious progress into the market.

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Re: More difficult than it looks.

I agree with the switching on and off not working.

For cars, you are better with them off, or on or alternate lamps on. I can't see practically how you would work this.

Urban. People (and animals) are going to get pretty pissed off with lights going on and off every minute, two minutes or even 10 minutes.

Semi-urban - Street lighting can be minimal anyway where this may work, but would the distance between posts work and savings minimal (if at all).

Rural - what street lights?

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Wonder if they are implementing SCORPION STARE...

;-P

M.

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How long before they're hacked?

A whole town of interconnected IoT streetlights? Must be a tempting target...

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Re: How long before they're hacked?

I can just imagine flying over a city at night with hacked lights giving some amusing message or more likely a large phallus....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How long before they're hacked?

And, like clacton, when the lights go out the muggers, drug dealers and burglars appear on the streets

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Re: How long before they're hacked?

Someone took control of an office block's light with a drone and made them flash SOS. So not beyond belief.

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TRT
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Re: How long before they're hacked?

There's even more mileage to be had from smart lighting.

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Light colour?

Blue light from mobile phones and tablets is supposed to be terrible for sleeping; will the bluer light from the LEDs have the same effect?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Light colour?

will the bluer light from the LEDs have the same effect?

My road got LED streetlights a few years back, and it hasn't caused me or the wife any problems, even though our bedroom window is fifty feet from the light. There's been a whole load of claims that LEDs are bad for humans, birds, mammals, moths, etc, but I've yet to seen any compelling evidence that LED streetlights are harming anybody other than the companies making gas discharge lamps.

I suspect its like anything new, human nature means a good third of the population will believe that any innovation is making the world worse, regardless of the evidence/lack of.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Light colour?

Having just had the light above my desk changed to LEDs and been given a blinder of a headache (though my nearest colleague was fine) I believe your mileage may vary worth these things.

Annon because they know who they are.

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FAIL

Bad designs still pollute the sky

Shame that no thought has been given to the installation in the photo. The angle of the 'Hitler salute' arm means that even though most of the light may be emitted perpendicularly from the luminaire, a significant amount will have an upward component which will be wasted.

We need a swingeing tax on all outdoor lighting installations that aren't full cut off, so that all the light is used usefully, thereby avoiding pollution of the night sky, light trespass and needless CO2 generation.

Spatial distribution is just as important as lumens per watt, but it's still overlooked.

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Re: Bad designs still pollute the sky

My neighbour has fairy lights outside, year round.

The illustrated installed light may be indeed sending some light up into the sky, but either they had to mount it in a particular way to get most of the light to where it needs to be, or bending the metal arm wasn't an option. I wouldn't want to be doing that up a ladder, but then, I don't want to do anything up a ladder. No, not even that.

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