San Diego’s Smart Streetlights Yield a Firehose of Data

by Tekla S. PerryIEEE Spectrum

San Diego, CA, has set up about 2,000 sensor-laden smart streetlights that can gather pictures, sounds, and other data. So far, the city has focused on the image data, using it to count pedestrians and cars as they move around the city.

Officials are still considering other possibilities, such as using the streetlights to locate gunshots, track airport noise, or monitor air quality. In addition, the city has ordered 1,000 more smart streetlights to supplement its initial order of 3,200, the remainder of which will be installed in the next month or two.

Said the city’s Eric Caldwell, “We want to see if we can build a tool, based on a more accurate model of how traffic and pedestrians behave, to optimize traffic for law enforcement.”

Says Caldwell of a recent test examining whether the streetlights could identify open parking spaces, “We just completed a pilot demonstration project benchmarking the system against parking meters with built-in sensors, against parking transaction data, and against an intern with a clipboard. We found that the streetlights provide the best information.”

With the accuracy of parking data verified, Caldwell says, the city is now preparing to take action on that information. “We thought we were using spaces 60 percent of the time,” he said, “but data we from the streetlights says we are using them 90 percent, which is overutilized. So we are thinking about pricing, whether we should have more parking in certain areas, whether we should expand the metered network.”

Seeing all this information, he says, city managers have been inspired to try to help police and fire vehicles get to emergencies faster:

We want to see if we can build a tool, based on a more accurate model of how traffic and pedestrians behave, to optimize traffic for law enforcement. Say, when a fire call comes into a fire station, right now, the doors of the fire station go up, and the location information goes into a GPS system. But today, when the firefighters pop onto the road, they are back in the ‘80s, strobing the light and hoping cars will get out of the way. It would be easier if we could use the traffic signals and street lights to clear the road from Point A to Point B, and then have the [streetlight] system detect how the fire truck is moving through the street, restoring traffic flow behind it. That would save us money on fire stations, because we build them based on response times. Improving response times means we might not need as many stations.” Read the article.

DCL: These kinds of systems depend upon a lot of real-time event processing, and are essentially CEP applications.

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