As the world’s population grows, technology becomes more advanced and more of the world develops, cities are being put under strain. Energy resources are becoming even more important to manage without sending costs sky rocketing. With the news agenda being dominated by environmental and sustainable living, ensuring cities are energy efficient is crucial.

It is estimated that the urban population will grow by 2% each year until 2020 from 54% of the global population. This presents traffic issues, accessibility, higher job competition and higher energy consumption. Cities already consume 78% of the world’s energy according to UN Habitat. *Source: UN Habitat (United Nations Human Settlements Program)

Developing smart cities means electronic data can be obtained and used to manage assets and resources efficiently. A smart city is essentially the idea that sensors are spread throughout the city to gather and supply information that can be used to manage resources and allow the public to access information as and when they need it.

IDG predicts that by 2020, people will be able to interact with street lights, kiosks and tourist sights where they will be able to access new experiences, information, and services.

Using digital systems and the IoT, information from a multitude of infrastructures can be used to improve modern living. One of the most useful places to start is with lighting. A vast infrastructure already exists that can be harnessed thanks to smart technology solutions.

How smart can light be?

Smart lighting if utilised correctly, has the ability to become increasingly user-centric and intelligent. It’s becoming part of a connected ecosystem, creating smart buildings in our cities. Smart lighting is currently more common place in homes but the business applications and benefits are beginning to be realised. For example, street lighting can be utilised to monitor traffic flow, identify empty car parking spaces, environmental monitoring and can even act as a WiFi router for public internet access.

In terms of connected lighting in buildings, from offices to restaurants and hotels, that taps into big data and analytics means business managers can monitor energy consumption, organise preventive maintenance and receive customised information to suit their business. These useful insights can then be used to improve their operations or service.

Professional smart lighting platforms for example provide raw data collection and extraction links for data management systems, catering to vertical market segments such as hospitality, retail and offices. Linking motion sensors and Bluetooth beacons with existing floor plans helps to record heat maps for business analytics.

By combining software and hardware platforms, smart lighting can respond to the needs of building managers whilst keeping a simple IT infrastructure. Traditional lights can be made smart and brought into the 21st Century, making benefits of IoT solutions a reality.

These benefits include being able to control lighting in multiple rooms and floors through the use of hundreds of WiFi connections, programmed lights. Meanwhile the running of associated preventive maintenance alerts and action lists ensures high-quality management of the lighting elements. Hospitals with over 9,000 lights, for example, are already seeking to install these solutions.

The potential for lighting to enrich smart cities from both a commercial and domestic perspective is vast yet easily scalable. It’s not just a gadget, it’s a key component for smart cities to improve the wellbeing of people and the planet.