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Opinion on Smart Lighting: « We will be more successful if we can move from proprietary systems to non-proprietary systems »

By Terje Rygh, Smart City Advisor, City of Stavanger

We asked leading city representatives and industry partners to share their views on opportunities and challenges regarding the next steps for smart lighting. They were published in the ninth issue of Cities & Lighting, out Spring 2021.

A challenge many cities face while working with smart urban lighting are the many proprietary solutions in use, and therefore a lack of data ownership. We will be more successful if we can move from proprietary systems to nonproprietary systems. The public sector needs to own its data to enable innovation-making open data available. Without the ownership of data and use of open standards, we risk vendor lock-in and reduced space of opportunities. Data stored in fractured or inaccessible locations, where one often needs to buy access to it is, at best, slowing down the innovation processes.

The City of Stavanger recognises the importance of making lighting solutions interoperable, and we need the appropriate standards. Solutions need to build on the principle of universal design.

Regulations, physical locations, the at-the-time available technology, cyber and data security, GDPR and the environment in which we operate will also play a significant role in how big our « room of opportunity » actually is.

For the cities, in order to reduce the cost and mitigate environmental footprints, our citizens and the stakeholders need to be involved in a co-creative way.

In the current work, we see that this is very much a balancing act between intangible and tangible objectives. For smart cities to be able to solve the real problems individuals and society have around lighting, we need to know what those problems are. How can we know our citizen’s lighting needs, if we have not asked them? Therefore, we need to consider human factors. We need to ask why, for whom, and why we do this continuously. Yesterday’s problems may not be the problems of today. Generally, to solve smart urban lighting problems, we need to have the means, devices and tools to quickly evaluate if we are building solutions that solve real problems for our cities and our citizens. In an urban lighting point of view and from the viewpoint of Stavanger smart city, digital twin(s) will be an essential tool to solve future challenges.

Using digital twins not only lets us build many virtual solutions and models but also enables us to shift between them quickly. With the help of a digital twin, citizens and lighting experts can test the different setups and provide an easier way for them to choose the right end-product. A digital twin also enables the up-scaling of such tests if enough, and correct data is available through digitalisation. These twins can also be shared with other cities, making it easier to share setups, play with changes, and seek inspiration from other cities. In other words, they can act as an interactive walk in a virtual 3D demo.

If done right, the cost of doing small prototypes and quick testing in a digital twin can save the city « money, sweat and tears. » If only one out of ten prototypes are a success, the one success may cover the cost of all the other tests. The goal must be to solve the actual needs of the city in a sustainable and cost-efficient way.

Read more opinions on challenges & opportunities brought by smart lighting here.

An edited version of this article originally appeared in   (Issue #9, Spring/Summer 2021).