San Francisco Gets “Bright” Lights

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San Francisco was always known as a town that was, hip, edgy, trendy, expensive…now add “smart” to that list.  Up to 40,000 lights could illuminate the City by the Bay, as the city transitions its street lights to a smart city grid. Many changes are in the works, reports the San Francisco Examiner.  The anticipated $19M price tag includes not only the LED lights, but data collection elements that should help manage traffic.

The new anyCOMM technology includes a NEMA socket which is mounted at the top of the light poles to turn the lights on and off. Each module cost approximately $500. The device can dim or brighten the lights as needed, or relay alerts if the pole malfunctions or is hit by a car. With a connected data grid, the information regarding an accident would reliably direct help to the scene without involving extra steps that could garble the message. 

Citing a business case report, the Examiner noted, “The SFPUC [San Francisco Public Utilities Commission] street light infrastructure covers almost the entire city with only a few exceptions. This real estate has tremendous value in terms of providing public WiFi services across the city.” The SFPUC has already dabbled with IoT [Internet of Things] applications, monitoring the wastewater system and reacting to saltwater incursions, rainfall variations, and possible leaks.  

“At its heart, it’s a lighting control and management system, but anyCOMM chose to take an integrated approach and basically put all the technologies that you have in a smart phone in this device,” said Brad Taylor, SFPUC’s technical operations manager.

While the city is excited by the potential uses of all the data that can be gathered and shaped, a system that can recognize faces and license plates is also a privacy intruder.   “I have privacy concerns about everything that we see out on the street today. I think we need to be super careful about that,” acknowledged anyComm CEO Robert Praske. Regarding the cost of the project, the scope of data gathered, and privacy concerns, Taylor noted that all aspects were being considered, adding, “We are sort of in a wait and see mode.”

The Committee on Information Technology, whose members come from various city departments, as well as the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee, will meet soon to discuss the smart city proposal and decide on next steps.  

March 26, 2019

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