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Street Lamps as a Platform


row of street lamps

Credit: Getty Images

Street lamps constitute the densest electrically operated public infrastructure in urban areas. Their changeover to energy-friendly LED light quickly amortizes and is increasingly leveraged for smart city projects, where LED street lamps double, for example, as wireless networking or sensor infrastructure. We make the case for a new paradigm called SLaaP—street lamps as a platform. SLaaP denotes a considerably more dramatic changeover, turning urban light poles into a versatile computational infrastructure. SLaaP is proposed as an open, enabling platform, fostering innovative citywide services for the full range of stakeholders and end users—seamlessly extending from everyday use to emergency response. In this article, we first describe the role and potential of street lamps and introduce one novel base service as a running example. We then discuss citywide infrastructure design and operation, followed by addressing the major layers of a SLaaP infrastructure: hardware, distributed software platform, base services, value-added services and applications for users and 'things.' Finally, we discuss the crucial roles and participation of major stakeholders: citizens, city, government, and economy.

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Recent years have seen the emergence of smart street lamps, with very different meanings of 'smart'—sometimes related to the original purpose as with usage-dependent lighting, but mostly as add-on capabilities like urban sensing, monitoring, digital signage, WiFi access, or e-vehicle charging.a Research about their use in settings for edge computing14 or car-to-infrastructure communication (for example, traffic control, hazard warnings, or autonomous driving)6 hints at their great potential as computing resources. The future holds even more use cases: for example, after a first wave of 5G mobile network rollouts from 2020 onward, a second wave shall apply mm-wave frequencies for which densely deployed light poles can be appropriate 'cell towers.'


 

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