The Streetlight Is Watching You
We are hugely dependent upon technology and sometimes take it for granted. It is always worth reminding ourselves where it all began so we can fully appreciate how lucky we are. Take the Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) for example. They have come a long way in a relatively short time. They were used first as low-intensity light emitters in electronic devices, it is difficult to believe anyone would foresee them one day lighting our homes.
The future of lighting may first be peeking through at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey. The airport has installed 171 new LED-based light fixtures that include a variety of sensors to detect and record what’s going in the airport, as reported by Diane Cardwell in The New York Times. Together they make a network of devices that communicates wirelessly and allows authorities to scan license plates of passing cars, watch out for lines and delays, and check out travelers for suspicious activities.
I get the feeling that Newark’s new gear will not be the last of lighting-based digital networks. Over the last few years, LED street lights have gone from something cities would love to have to the sector standard. That the market has shifted so swiftly is thanks to the efforts of early movers such as the City of Los Angeles, which last year completed the world’s largest LED street light replacement project, with LED fixtures installed on 150,000 streetlights.
Los Angeles is certainly not alone in making the switch to LED street lighting. In March 2013, Las Vegas outfitted 50,000 streetlights with LED fixtures. One month later, the Austin TX announced plans to install 35,000 LED street lights. Not to be outdone, New York City, is planning to go all-LED by 2017, which would save $14 million and many tons of carbon emissions each year.
The impending switch to LEDs is an excellent opportunity for LED light fixture makers and Big Data software vendors like Informatica. These fixtures are made with a wide variety of sensors that can be tailored to whatever the user wants to detect, including temperature, humidity, seismic activity, radiation, audio, and video, among other things. The sensors could even detect and triangulate the source of a gunshot.
This steady stream of real-time data collected from these fixtures can be transformed into torrents of small messages and events with unprecedented agility using Informatica Vibe Data Stream. Analyzed data can then be distributed to various governmental and non-governmental agencies, such as; law enforcement, environmental monitors, retailers, etc.
If I were to guess the number of streetlights in the world, I would say 4 billion. Upgrading these is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to harness “lots of data, i.e., Sensory big data.”