Telecom companies eye growth in Smart Cities, street lights to act as key resource – Philips-Vodafone tie-up and Sensity Systems-Verizon acquisition discussed

Strong and reliable connectivity has to be the backbone for smart cities with thousands of devices and systems communicating between themselves to deliver data to users. In fact, it’s difficult to visualize a smart city without a telecom backbone. Naturally, the telecom companies globally see a wide scope in the smart cities and IoT space with the stagnating smart phone market.

According to market research firm Machina Research, by 2025 the total number of IoT connections will grow to 27 billion from 6 billion in 2015. The total IoT revenue opportunity will be $3 trillion in 2025, up from $750 billion in 2015.

Upgrading the street lights is one of the top priorities in cities aiming to deliver better urban life across the world. A lot of news is coming out for new technologies in smart street lighting giving more control to civic authorities in monitoring and efficiently managing the vast network of lights across the city and also save on energy. Energy can be saved by using solar power as well as using sensors which detect ambient light and dim lights as required.

The poles used for street lights are also becoming key resources as they are being used for mounting cameras for video surveillance, varied types of sensors (like in Chicago for monitoring environmental parameters), WiFi antennas, signages, etc. Ludhiana is one Indian city which has already understood the advantage of smart poles and floated a tender earlier this month to replace 1,000 street lights with smart poles.

Telecom companies are gearing up to become not just connectivity providers but solution providers for smart cities. Two recent developments highlight the same –  Philips Lighting tied up with Vodafone and Verizon took one step more by acquiring Sensity Systems.

Philips-Vodafone tie-up

Philips Lighting and Vodafone announced in March, 2016 that they are partnering to provide wirelessly managed smarter and greener street lighting solutions

The Philips CityTouch street lighting management system will use Vodafone’s world-leading machine-to-machine (M2M) network to connect individual light points. Every connected street lamp will contain a Vodafone M2M SIM from which city authorities can monitor and manage lighting through Philips’ CityTouch. Engineers will be then able to check performance, identify faults and control the lighting remotely. The joint offering allows city authorities to create an infrastructure that is easily scalable, and will be able to support other smart city applications in future.

The Philips CityTouch Ready luminaires or CityTouch nodes connected with existing standalone street lights to provide the following benefits:

  • Typically additional 30-40% energy savings above the savings made by using LED lighting, as the connected lights can be dimmed or turned up as required – the right light level, at the right time, in the right place.
  • Reduced maintenance cost and time from days to hours as real-time information on the status of each light point is relayed to the operator who can schedule crews to a precise location. No more driving around looking for faults.
  • Network setup and commissioning happens automatically and when the CityTouch Ready luminaire or a connector node is installed it starts transmitting location data and operational information securely over the Vodafone network.

Verizon acquires Sensity Systems

Verizon which has been active in the smart cities space acquired another company from Sunnyvale aside from Yahoo! The telecom major acquired Sensity Systems, a startup which develops IoT solutions for smart city systems like devices to connect street lights making them remotely manageable. Prior to being acquired by Verizon for an undisclosed amount, Sensity Systems had raised $74 million in venture capital from a number of investors, including GE Ventures and Cisco Investments. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. For Verizon, it is a step in the expected direction.  Verizon’s “State of the Market: Internet of Things 2016” report declares that, “In our view, 2015 was the year IoT gained legitimacy,” and that it’s now “mainstream.”

The press releases announcing the acquisition mentioned that Sensity now has 42 smart city installations across the globe of it’s lighting solution based on its NetSense IoT Platform. The company enables light owners to capitalize on the LED conversion process by embedding networking technology within both retrofit and new LED luminaires. With the Sensity open, privacy-by-design, multiservice NetSense™ platform, lighting owners are able to reduce energy costs and implement a variety of Smart City applications and services, including public safety, environmental and weather monitoring, parking management and location analytics. The World Economic Forum, which identifies the world’s most innovative companies, has recognized Sensity as a Technology Pioneer.

Sensity’s NetSense Nodes are wirelessly connected and forms the foundation for the NetSense platform. NetSense Nodes are sleek, ruggedized hardware devices that are packed with sensors—including video sensors as an option—and embedded analytics that are integrated into LED luminaires. Nodes can be located inside the luminaire enclosures or easily affixed to the exterior of light fixtures using an industry-standard NEMA receptacle.

Sensity installed 121 sensors in LED streetlights in a 2.2 mile smart district in Kansas City that opened in May this year. Kansas City recently completed the first phase of its smart city project, and is looking toward beginning the second stage to add more of the same features in a broader area. Cisco was a leading player in the project which include free Wi-Fi, smart streetlights and smart kiosks. The sensors ensure that street lights turn off in the morning and kick-on only after sun down. It also has sensors which detect motion in the vicinity to dim lights when there is no people movement saving energy. Additionally, light poles also have video cameras to detect obstructions on the road and raise alarm if required which future plans to use them to detect parking spot availability.

Panasonic and Sensity also announced a partnership in April, 2016 when Sensity joined the Panasonic City Now Initiative. It has strategic partnerships with leaders like Cisco and Qualcomm  as well as Genetec which is into video management solutions and Amerlux LLC, a global leader in lighting solution.

Reference Links: 1) http://www.vodafone.com/content/index/media/vodafone-group-releases/2016/philips-connected-lighting.html

2) http://www.techrepublic.com/article/verizon-targets-smart-city-growth-with-acquisition-of-sensity-systems/

3) http://www.sensity.com/ – Official website of Sensity Systems

4) http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/sensity-systems-joins-panasonics-citynow-initiative-to-accelerate-the-transformation-of-smart-cities-300254273.html

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