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Insights from the Cardiff Street Lighting Project

Eric Woods
Sep 25, 2018

Smart Cities

The Cardiff street lighting project, as outlined in my previous blog, is demonstrating the multiple benefits of connected LED street lighting. The project also provides some important insights into broader issues around the implementation of street lighting and other smart city innovation programs.

Street Lighting Is about Lighting First

Many cities are attracted to the possibilities of connected street lighting to improve efficiency and offer new services that maximize the use of street lighting assets. It is therefore easy for non-lighting specialists to forget that the first and foremost task of the lighting departments is to provide reliable, safe, and efficient street lighting. This was a priority for the Cardiff team from the very beginning. Working with local citizens and interest groups ensured that the lighting system met the needs of different user groups, was aesthetically pleasing, and conformed to lighting standards and energy efficiency requirements. The choice of the 3,000 Kelvin LED lighting was one outcome of this focus, but it is also ingrained in the way the CMS is being used to manage lighting now, making it both more reliable and more responsive to local needs. Connectivity is the enabler for these benefits, not an end in itself.

Early and Continuing Engagement Is Essential

Cardiff’s approach to citizen engagement not only helped improve the specification of the system, it has also led to continuing improvement in the way lighting is provided in the city. The ability to respond quickly—and cost-effectively—to requests from the public, other services, or external agencies improves the overall experience with the local council and makes Cardiff a more efficient and attractive place to live, work, and visit. Cardiff’s team is creating a positive feedback loop—engage, learn, deploy, adapt, and then continue to engage. As they look to expand into other smart city use cases, this model for engagement may be as valuable as the lighting network itself.

Valuing the Public Service Ethos

Like local government employees in cities around the world, the goal of the Cardiff lighting team (and wider city services team) is to provide the best service they can for their city, its residents, and its visitors. Marshalling that professionalism and dedication is a vital but often overlooked aspect of driving smart city innovation. Scaling-up smart city solutions requires the commitment of front-line staff who understand operational realities and are eager to find ways to improve the services they provide. This means giving them the time, training, and resources they need to be able to use new technologies effectively. A good example of this is the way the team has adapted to the use of the Interact City CMS. Initially skeptical about the value of a CMS because of experience with legacy systems, the team found that the control and responsiveness provided by the new CMS—as well as its ease of use—is transforming the management of the lighting network.

Developing a Smart City Is a Journey

While improvement to the street lighting service was the prime driver for the project, the council team understands they now have an asset that can support other city objectives. It is already looking at options to integrate other sensor technologies into the street lighting system. This is part of a wider program to develop a smart city strategy for the city, which has already invested in an extensive smart parking system. In the words of Chris Jones, Lead Officer Electrical of Cardiff City Council, it has a scalable and flexible digital infrastructure that gives the city options for the future.

Cardiff now has a strong foundation in terms of a technology platform, experience in deploying large-scale innovative systems, and a process for citizen engagement: all of which will stand it in good stead as it addresses new challenges and opportunities.