Thinking Tech

Chattanooga's smart streetlights include a wireless network

Chattanooga's smart streetlights include a wireless network

Posting in Cities

It's one thing to trade your incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents (CFLs), but what do you get when you add wireless radios to your city streetlights?

It’s one thing to trade out your incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents (CFLs), but the city of Chattanooga has taken energy-efficient lighting to a whole new level. After a successful trial, Chattanooga is now replacing its high-pressure sodium outdoor lighting with induction and LED fixtures. And that’s not all. These new fixtures have built-in wireless radios.

In addition to a gigabit network and an automated power distribution system, you can now add smart streetlights to Chattanooga’s list of accomplishments. The lights are manufactured locally by Global Green Lighting and supplied with wireless connectivity by the North Carolina company Sensus. The Sensus technology is called FlexNet, and it allows officials to monitor and control all of the city lights from a single location. That means Chattanooga can gradually brighten and dim its streetlamps according to ambient conditions, using energy only as needed instead of relying on a standardized on/off cycle.

The FlexNet system creates a two-way, point/multi-point wireless network using licensed spectrum in the 900 megahertz frequency range. Among other things, that means the communications infrastructure isn't going to interfere with local Wi-Fi networks using unlicensed spectrum. Right now Chattanooga isn't using the wireless radios for anything other than lighting control, but Sensus points out that its FlexNet system works with a number of smart grid applications, and is in use with electric, gas and water utilities around the country.

By combining energy-efficient fixtures with FlexNet wireless control, Chattanooga is expected to save up to $2.7 million annually in energy and maintenance costs. For all the money Chattanooga is investing in its smart grid, the city is setting itself up for some serious cash returns as well.

Before and after pics courtesy of Sensus

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Mari Silbey

Contributing Editor

Mari Silbey is an independent tech writer based in Washington, D.C. With a background in cable and telecom, she's a contributor to several trade publications, and part of the GigaOM analyst network. She also writes for the long-running digital media blog Zatz Not Funny, and has written for both corporate and association clients focused on broadband networks, mobile apps, and video delivery. She's a graduate of Duke University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure