Back in 2012, I wrote a White Paper entitled EnLighten San Diego when I had an insight into the strategic value of “power and perch,” two unique characteristics of streetlights. Streetlights are everywhere in most cities, but in San Diego, we envisioned attaching Small Cells to streetlights before there were Small Cells. We imagined Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) as a method to connect Smart Meters to Streetlights at a time when no meter manufacturer offered it. We even thought of using EV Charging along streets to support regional Climate Action Plans.
Today, other cities have caught up to us, but many challenges remain. At the top of the list is a growing regional awareness of the emerging impact of 5G and its nexus with autonomous vehicles. A developing consensus is that that there may eventually be mobile radios attached to nearly 100% of streetlights within a given city, the majority of which may require additional fiberoptic cabling. To minimize negative impact on the public, we’ll need a new regional planning effort. We’ll need to take a hard look at the best and greatest use of the streetlight and its ability to support high-speed networks within the framework of a Neutral Host strategy. Under this policy framework, every streetlight can and should become a gateway to any Mobile Network Operator (MNO) to its network, thus conserving limited space, improving aesthetic appeal, while eliminating meter pedestals cluttering our sidewalks and roadways. I encourage the region’s agencies and municipalities ato take a closer look at their strategies to maximize fair access everywhere. This might be accomplished through co-location agreements among the MNOs and agencies, or through the innovative use of technology to provide a single gateway to the Internet through each streetlight.
And as Smart City designs evolve, we will see the use of more cameras and microphones for public safety, traffic mobility, and vehicle parking. This is inevitable. Cameras are everywhere, raising public concerns about privacy rights. When the public is brought along and made part of the policy debate, outcomes improve. These community conversations need to occur early so as not to create unnecessary confusion and fear.
These are exciting times. In 2020 we will see the emergence of truly high-speed network technology atop streetlights utilizing a host of wireless technologies. Each will have its own challenges, so careful planning and thought will be needed to determine which technologies will best support a given agency’s plans. Ubiquitous deployment of 5G, autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles are just around the corner. The IoT market is expected to grow much faster than any other segment impacting global data traffic. And this new Smart City market is being played out in public rights of ways, meaning public agencies should and will have a huge voice in planning our future. So let’s get busy and solve these challenges together!
Intelligent Cities Associates, LLC