If Europe replaced its current streetlight infrastructure with smart lamps, it could save taxpayers up to €2.1 billion per year. At the moment, Europe spends nearly €3 billion on street lighting—a sum that could be translated to other public services like employing tens of thousands of doctors or nurses. By switching out traditional street lamps—75% of which are over 25 years old and require cost-consuming maintenance—cities could save in the long run, both on taxpayer dollars as well as energy, since smart lampposts use 50-70% less energy than traditional street lighting. More than a thousand smart lampposts are currently being tested in six cities across Europe to see if it’s possible to roll out such a project on a larger scale across the continent. Let’s examine one city in particular, Burgas, to see just how much of an impact this tech upgrade could have on citizens.
Saving money and the environment
The second-largest city on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, and the fourth-largest in Bulgaria, Burgas is home to 230,000 residents—as well as the country’s largest cargo port. As one of the first smart cities in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe, over the past few years, the city has served as a living lab for smart solution projects, such as an interactive smart mobility terminal and mobile app that offers real-time information on the city’s transportation options (all in one place). Now the city is honing in on smart lighting (one of the top smart city trends for 2018), installing lampposts outfitted with LED bulbs and a reactive dimming system that will save over half of Burgas’ energy used for street lighting. In addition to offering solutions for energy savings, sensors installed on smart lampposts can gather data on noise levels and traffic, sharing this information with the city as a way to strategize future urban developments based on Burgas’ needs.
“The latest generation of smart street lighting is helping to tackle some of the issues that city mayors have grappled with for decades,” explains Sharing Cities programme director Nathan Pierce. “Smart lampposts represent an ingenious way of tackling chronic problems like air pollution and traffic congestion.”
While this project in particular aims to upgrade around 56,000 units, the European Commission expects this concept to spread to 10 million by 2025, offering significant energy savings to both cities and consumers, as well as a much-needed technological advance that will ease congestion and decrease pollution, making these cities more pleasant ones to live in.