January 30, 2020
(Part 1 of 2)
Whether in the cities or the suburbs, reliable street
lighting provides residents with a sense of security. But this essential
service is often plagued with problems, from streetlights that are unreliable
or damaged, burned out bulbs, lack of proper synchronization with sunrise and
sunset and brightness or dimness issues. Moreover, operating and maintaining traditional
street lighting systems is expensive with maintenance teams relying on personal
observance of problems or reports from the public.
No one disputes the value of good street lighting, and with emerging
smart street lighting solutions the problems with older systems can be
overcome. The first step for municipalities is understanding smart street
lighting solutions and the value they offer.
There are a variety of important considerations for those
contemplating upgrading their existing systems with smart street lighting,
including the following 5 (we’ll explore another 5 in a subsequent blog) :
February 3, 2020
(Part 2 of 2)
In this blog, we consider an additional 5 key attributes, as
To learn more about smart lighting solution options that may work for your municipality, visit our overview page here: https://www.telematics-wireless.com/technology/overview/
Ferbuary 3, 2020
Part 1: Overview
By Amir Hirsch
“Smart streetlighting” earns that designation mainly because it is networked, allowing it to both send and receive data from a central management system (CMS). With smart (networked) streetlights, utility companies, municipal streetlight managers, DOT’s and other lighting system owners gain much more control over their lights –whether individual luminaires, lights grouped by street or neighborhood, or even the entire grid.
That’s why it is critical that manufacturers of luminaires and streetlight control systems, like us, look at the best ways to ensure their lighting solutions will best meet the needs of the areas in which they are deployed. One of the issues worth debating is whether streetlights should be connected through licensed or unlicensed bands on the Radio Frequency (RF) spectrum.
This three-part blog series examines my take on how these two options differ along with the benefits and potential concerns for each:
Licensed versus unlicensed
What’s the difference between licensed and unlicensed RF frequencies? The simple answer is that in order to operate on licensed frequencies, an operator must acquire a special license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and no such special license is required when operating on unlicensed frequencies.
However, understanding the implications of selecting one frequency over the other is necessary when selecting the best network for the application. That’s particularly true for critical applications such as emergency services or public street lighting, both of which are essential for public safety.
The key to successfully deploying a networked streetlight control and smart city solution lies in the robustness of the deployed network. It’s obvious that the more robust the network, the higher the reliability, and more dependable the solution becomes.
Part 2: Licensed vs. Unlicensed Frequency in Streetlighting: The ISM Bands
By Amir Hirsch
In part 1 of this 3-part series, I discussed why manufacturers of luminaires and streetlight control systems find the best way to ensure their lighting solutions meet the needs of the area in which they are deployed. For critical applications, this could not be more important.
Here’s a deeper dive into unlicensed frequencies, their use, and their potential shortcomings:
Today, most networked streetlight control and smart city solutions using unlicensed RF frequency bands are operating in what’s known as the industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) bands. Common ISM applications include microwave ovens and RF-based process heaters which have powerful emissions and may cause a great deal of electromagnetic interference. Despite their original designation, the fastest growing use of these frequencies has been for communications between devices in very short range, usually indoors. Some widely used examples of wireless technologies running on the ISM bands include Wi-Fi, used for indoor wireless broadband internet access, and Bluetooth, commonly used to pair devices such as a mobile phone and wireless headphones.
To significantly extend RF range outdoors, several methods have been developed including wireless mesh networking, ultra-narrowband, or another LPWAN solution like LoRa, all of which take the unlicensed ISM band communication and stretch it out to get wide area wireless network coverage. However, these are not considered ISM devices or applications. It is a poorly kept secret that the ISM bands are often referred to as the “garbage bands” because communication devices and networks operating in the ISM bands must overcome interference from true ISM and other applications utilizing the same unlicensed band. Additionally, there are no regulatory protections from ISM devices operating within FCC tolerated parameters. And with the exponential increase of communication devices operating on the same frequencies, the bands are saturated with near constant interference. It is estimated that today there are more than four wirelessly connected devices for every human being, or approximately 24 billion devices globally — with almost all of them operating on ISM frequencies.
Using communication devices on these frequencies for non-critical applications such as utility meters, in-home Wi-Fi, baby monitors, pairing of mobile phones to vehicle infotainment systems and more is great. However, when it comes to critical applications that are essential for public safety such as streetlights, how do we overcome the inherent potential pitfalls of the network operating on unlicensed frequencies? The solution is by using licensed frequencies.
In part 3 of this blog series, we’ll take a closer look at licensed frequencies and how they can be a game changer for streetlighting solutions.
Part 3: Licensed vs. Unlicensed Frequency in Streetlighting – The Importance of Licensed Frequencies
By Amir Hirsch
In this 3-part blog series, I’ve explored the critical safety aspects of smart streetlighting (Part 1), and examined unlicensed RF frequencies, their typical usage and some of the drawbacks of unlicensed for smart streetlighting (Part 2).
Now, I’ll look more in-depth at licensed frequencies and why companies like ours see real value in them for critical streetlighting applications:
Obtaining a license to operate a wireless network for narrow-band applications on FCC licensed frequencies is as simple as filling out a form, paying a fee, and waiting several weeks for approval. Once approved by the FCC, the critical application, such as streetlighting, operates on a unique pair of frequencies which (in most cases) no other wireless networks may use, by law.
When the streetlight control network is operating independently on a clean set of licensed frequencies, there is little or no electromagnetic interference from other wireless networks or systems. If, for any reason, interference does exist it is up to the FCC to clean up the airwaves or provide alternative clean frequencies.
Additionally, the rules for wireless communication on FCC licensed frequencies are significantly more beneficial for wireless communication since that is what the frequencies are designated for. As an example, rather than being able to transmit data just a few hundred feet, a networked streetlight controller operating on FCC licensed frequencies can transmit data more than 15 miles. That means two streetlights which are 30 miles apart can send their data directly to the same gateway, without having to employ any of the tricks used by controllers operating on unlicensed frequencies, such as hopping through other networked streetlight controllers or installing many gateways to cover the area.
The practical implication of operating technologies such as streetlights using licensed frequencies is that most municipalities could control all their streetlights with just a single gateway. It’s analogous to a user being able to stay connected to his or her home WI-FI network if they are within a 15-mile radius of the home. If that were the case, most people would not need a cellular provider which, by the way, also operates on licensed frequencies.
Even in instances where achieving a 15-mile coverage radius around the gateway is not possible due to the topography, in most cases deploying a networked solution on an FCC licensed frequency is still more robust.
The comparative chart below highlights the strengths and weakness of deploying a star networked streetlight control system on FCC licensed frequencies compared to the most deployed wide area mesh or star networks on unlicensed frequencies.