From the early simplicity of hanging candles and lanterns, to the gas-light glow of the industrial era, and finally to the familiar high-intensity radiance of today’s urban nightscapes, light poles have been a defining feature along sidewalks and city streets for centuries. While often serving no other purpose than to bring light to dark places, the humble light pole has inspired both art and poetry and is an omnipresent part of any modern cityscape.
While simple illumination was enough for many urban environments in the past, today’s urban environments present a much more complex set of expectations. Energy savings, emergency preparedness, information dissemination, way finding, security, entertainment and advertising opportunities all factor into urban planning decisions. If approached separately, these components represent dauntingly complex and expensive systems even without considering aesthetic concerns. An efficient solution would be one that combined all of these features into one, while also using existing infrastructure. But does such a solution exist?
Illuminating Concepts, a Farmington Hills, Mich.-based architectural lighting company, revisited the ubiquitous light pole and found vast untapped potential. With a touch of technology, the simple light pole can be transformed into a product that is poised to completely change what is possible in an urban streetscape: Intellistreets.
The Light Pole Transformed
At its core, Intellistreets is a wireless light pole-based intelligent control system that addresses the needs of the modern cityscape. The system was designed to provide developers, urban planners and city officials with powerful new tools to enhance public safety, inform residents and visitors, and connect commercial, residential, hospitality and entertainment components. By using light poles as its foundation, the Intellistreets system takes advantage of the vast amount of infrastructure that already exists in cities around the world to transform urban corridors into environments that promote vitality, safety and economic development.
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Like many revolutionary ideas, Intellistreets began as a simple solution to a problem. Illuminating Concepts engineers were trying to introduce audio into a historic park setting without compromising the aesthetics of the park with large unsightly speakers. In a moment of inspiration, the concept of hiding an audio source within a light pole was created. This concept grew into an Illuminating Concepts patented product called the Concealed Placement Speaker, or CPS system. After years of successfully integrating audio into light poles, the engineers realized that the possibilities for light pole-based technology went far beyond audio and lighting, and the Intellistreets system was born.
Intelligence is the Difference
Unlike other control and energy management systems, the Intellistreets system is intelligent. Not only is it possible to control or schedule functions such as lighting and audio, Intellistreets components can adapt to changes in the environment without any human intervention. If a light pole is damaged, neighboring light poles can route around the damage and continue to function. If communication throughout the system is disrupted for any reason, each light pole has the ability to continue to function independently. The Intellistreets system has the ability to learn over time, allowing unprecedented flexibility and automation.
A Touch of Technology
The Intellistreets base system consists of the following components: lighting control, wireless communication, concealed audio and alert indication. Additional digital video signage and data acquisition components are available to further enhance functionality.
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The Intellistreets system features controllable and programmable lighting capabilities, including dimming and load-shedding. Lighting can be scheduled but can also react to ambient light levels in real-time. Significant energy savings can be achieved by providing only the necessary amount of light at any given time. In addition, holiday themes or other special programming can be integrated so that the lighting is unique for a given time period.
The Intellistreets system operates on a wireless mesh network. This network provides communication between each light pole and from each light pole back to an interface server. The mesh nature of the wireless network enables the network to remain highly resilient and flexible. If a light pole becomes damaged and can no longer communicate with the rest of the Intellistreets system, the wireless mesh network will heal itself and continue to function.
A concealed speaker housed within the base of the light pole provides clear, high-quality, 360-degree dispersion audio without being visible. The audio capabilities of Intellistreets can be used for many different audio applications, such as background music, paging and announcements, emergency alert information, and even sirens.
The Intellistreets system supports visible LED alert indicators that can easily be programmed for a wide range of uses. Alert indicators can be used to direct people to an exit in the case of an emergency, or could be used to indicate a faulty lamp source to maintenance personnel. Alert indicators can also be used as part of a larger security system to provide safety benefits.
The following additional components are available to further enhance the capabilities of Intellistreets:
Digital Video Signage
LED technology has revolutionized the display of information in recent years, both for advertising and way-finding purposes. The Intellistreets system offers the ability to add digital video signage in the form of a large LED banner to a light pole, much like the vinyl banners currently seen in city environments. Unlike vinyl banners, LED banners can display a wide variety of continually changing content, including both still images and video. This opens up endless possibilities for revenue generation through advertising, as well as intuitive and localized way-finding and video-based public service announcement.
A wide range of sensors can be added to the Intellistreets system, including weather and environmental sensors, toxic gas, radiation and other atmospheric monitoring and alert systems. Footfall sensors can be added to gather and relay valuable information regarding pedestrian traffic, which can assist city planners, managers & DDA directors. All of this data can be intelligently shared between poles to enable the system to adapt and react by itself, as well as enabling advanced reporting functionality as an adjunct to Homeland Security, emergency management and municipal operations.
In the future, additional features are expected to come online, including options such as downloadable maps and digital information packets for visitors, parking-meter capabilities, and even a portal to recharge hybrid or electric cars.
Illuminating Concepts’ proprietary IntelliFX control system facilitates an unprecedented level of control over the urban streetscape environment. As a user-friendly Web-based control system, IntelliFX offers superior diagnostic capability and the ability to dynamically change the atmosphere of a public space through a secure touch-screen or a Web interface available anywhere in the world. City security, service and safety personnel can coordinate events, make immediate decisions based on real-time data, create and monitor daily schedules, and offer special seasonal themes as needed. The highly customized IntelliFX interface can be broken up into districts or individual streets for ease-of-use and optimal functionality. IntelliFX and Intellistreets together provide extraordinary flexibility. System access and level of functionality are all programmable to allow for the appropriate level of control by the appropriate personnel as defined by the governing body or owner.
By combining the various elements available within the Intellistreets menu of options, a comprehensive package of entertainment, information sharing and security can be delivered from the ubiquitous light pole. Combined audio, video and paging features can transform an otherwise ordinary streetscape into an entertainment district. From the simple public address announcement (both audible and visual), to a tornado warning or Amber Alert, Intellistreets can greatly enhance a municipal alert program. Sensors capable of detecting CWAs (chemical warfare agents) extend Homeland Security efforts to the street level, where manpower cannot be deployed 24-7-365. Weather and water sensors can further extend the utility of system, providing real-time feedback of conditions in the community. Footfall cameras can provide valuable foot traffic data to bolster DDA leasing efforts. Digital street signs not only indicate location, but can also be programmed to deliver critical parking and driving directions during special events and emergency situations. Digital control of color-changing façade and street lighting offer additional flexibility for festival and special event use. Power consumption detectors monitor and report luminaire operation and offer the ability to switch and/or dim certain luminaire lamp types to minimize energy consumption and maximize effective use of street lighting and pole-mounted floodlights.
An Idea Whose Time Has Come
With its enhanced energy efficiency capabilities and security benefits, Intellistreets is a natural candidate for stimulus funding, and the system’s unique municipal, educational, commercial, and even military applications are limited only by the imagination. With Intellistreets, Illuminating Concepts has re-imagined the light pole and redefined conventional notions about what is possible in the modern urban landscape.
About Illuminating Concepts
Illuminating Concepts’ diverse portfolio features a collection of award-winning designs that have enhanced the energy and grandeur of stadiums and arenas, complemented the understated intimacy of historic districts, and activated the retail energy and brand identity of iconic retail destinations for more than a quarter century. Intellistreets brings together all of these elements into one compelling package. From controllable illumination and emergency beacons, to audio playback, digital way-finding or promotional signage, and a virtually unlimited capacity to enhance the system with additional features, Intellistreets is able to offer a system that is unlike anything else in the marketplace today. With Intellistreets, creating an immersive environment and enhancing an urban streetscape with almost endless possibilities is as simple as pushing a button.