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Kansas City’s streetlights can deliver all sorts of data – even retail analytics

What did the lamppost say to the merchant?: Lighting and retail experts could be going to Kansas City to find out. The city is deploying sensors on streetlights that can detect and deliver all sorts of activity, including retail analytics.

Yet another city has embarked on a plan to turn its streetlights into a vigilant network that collects and delivers information on all manner of urban activity, as Kansas City said it will use sensor-equipped lampposts to help with things like traffic, public security, parking, and even retail analytics.

The intelligent streetlights are part of a broader smart city initiative to ‘transform urban services and enhance the citizen experience,’ Kansas City said in a joint press release with information technology giant Cisco Systems, the project’s lead vendor.

Cisco is working with Silicon Valley firm Sensity Networks to outfit streetlights in the downtown area and other districts with sensors that collect information and send it through citywide networks.

‘Cisco’s and Sensity’s intelligent lighting platform transforms each lighting fixture into a sensory node in a powerful, broadband wireless network, creating a light sensory network for municipalities,’ the release stated. ‘The joint solution converts city lighting infrastructure into a distributed sensing platform to collect real-time data for smart city applications, such as smart parking, lighting, retail analytics, and public safety and security.’

The parties did not elaborate on how Kansas City merchants might access and deploy the retail analytics.

Kansas City is the latest example of a metropolis deploying smart streetlighting to gather information on everything from traffic, parking, noise, crowds, air quality, weather and even birdsong. 

Other cities embarking on similar projects include Los Angeles, San Diego, Copenhagen, Glasgow and Bristol, England, among others. In Denmark, the Danish Outdoor Lighting Laboratory is testing many of the principles. Hamburg, Germany is using smart streetlighting to help  it more efficiently run Europe’s second largest port.

Plans for Kansas City’s smart city project also includes an urban Wi-Fi network, interactive digital kiosks for ‘citizen engagement’, smart water systems that help conserve water by detecting leaks and other measures.

The digital nature of modern, LED lighting is prompting new uses for them that go beyond just illumination. In another retail example, mega chains like France’s Carrefour – the world’s third largest retailer – and Target in the US are using indoor LEDs to beam information to shoppers’ smartphones that directs them straight to discounts of specific interest to individuals.

Watch for Lux’s upcoming feature on smart connected streetlighting

Photo is from Brent Flanders