4 Unexpected Things That Smart Lamp Posts Can Do, Such As Provide WiFi

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Smart Lamp Posts Are Coming Soon

For those that caught the National Day Rally 2017, you may have remembered building a smart nation as one of the main focuses highlighted. More specifically, PM Lee mentioned Singapore’s intentions of converting every lamp post into a smart one.

Since [the 2013 Little India riot], we’ve made progress — we’re building an integrated national sensor network. We’re making every lamp post a smart lamp post. Meaning it can mount different types on sensors, on any of the lamp posts. We’re combining inputs from different sources, and we’re learning to analyze this combined data.

For those that didn’t, here’s what he said:

What greater potentials can be unlocked from having “smart” lamp posts then?

Why lamp posts?

Before we get to the possible features a smart lamp post can offer, let’s briefly explore why they play more than just a lighting role in the future of our country.

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1. They’re tall

The first point of strategic significance is their height. Because of this, lamp posts serve as the perfect place for sensors and nodes to be placed on to collect and transmit data.

2. They don’t move

As a permanent and common feature throughout the modern city, lamp posts are ready-made infrastructure which can provide consistent information, regardless of external factors.

3. They have power

Lastly would be their most important feature in that all lamp posts are also indirectly sources of power. Because all forms of technology require power to function, they serve as a perfect medium for these additions.

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Now that we’ve established why the common street lights will make up the backbone of the smart nation, let’s talk about some of the fun stuff they can do.

1. They make roads more efficient

Already in use at cities such as Munich, San Diego and soon-to-be New York, the lamp posts in said “smart cities” have cameras, microphones and sensors attached to them.

These smart street lights are able to to utilize their sensing nodes to monitor traffic, weather emergencies and air quality. They are even able to count passersby with wireless signals from their phones.

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Before you start claiming that this is how Skynet begins however, scientists behind the technology have insisted that the system is designed to collect highly anonymized data, instead of singling out individuals or identifying cellphone owners.

Instead, the technology will be used for more mundane purposes such as adjusting the intensity of light based on the environment, gathering traffic data, and monitoring gunshots.

Which could lead to the construction of more efficient roads to remove traffic jams.

2. They keep your phones alive

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Gone are the days when our phones can last the entire day.

With countless battery-consuming apps available coupled with heavy reliance of our smartphones, the power bank has become an essentials when leaving the house.

However, they’re bulky, run out of juice after 2-3 uses and some of us are just plain lazy to recharge them. Thankfully, that could all change very soon.

With places such as fitness corners and MRT stations already providing outlets for us to charge our phones, could we perhaps see this feature be extended to street lights as well?

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Additionally, street lamps in London, Beijing and Rotterdam also provide the option of charging your electric cars.

Though it’s not likely that electric cars will be available locally any time soon.

3. They give you Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi access has since grown from simply being a convenience. With many of our work and lifestyles largely reliant on them through devices such as our phones, laptops and computers, many pretty much see it as a necessity in today’s life.

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We’ve already been introduced to smart bins along Orchard road doubling as Wi-Fi hotspots, it’s no surprise that the street lights naturally come next.

With Los Angeles the first city in the world to deploy 4G LTE connectivity and places such as Beijing and Shanghai already offering free Wi-Fi, this feature is sure to be a favourite amongst Singaporeans when it launches.

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Very soon you’ll be able to remain connected online no matter where you are in the country, even that stretch along BKE near the Eco-Link.

4. They also function as “eyes” for the blind

Yes, you read that right. Over the last 2 years, Microsoft and the Guide Dogs charity have developed a headset which uses location provided from Bluetooth-enabled beacons stuck to lamp posts and “talks” you through your route.

Think Daredevil but less crimefighting, and more Google Glasses.

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Painting a picture of the world through sound, this navigational headset allows the visually impaired to hear their surroundings as a “3D soundscape”.

Some of its features include alerting to you points of interest and letting you know when you’ve reached the bus stop. It can even provide information such as history of local landmarks or opening hours of restaurants.

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The only drawback? The headset uses Bing.

The future of street lights is bright

As technology around us improves, don’t be surprised if lamp posts around you become more high-tech than your smart phones.

Due for a year-long trail in Orchard Road and selected housing estates this October, the Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP) aims to monitor and transmit data such as temperature and vehicle/human traffic from surveillance cameras and sensors on the lamp posts.

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But we all know it’s just a matter of time before it ends up like the surveillance system used in The Dark Knight by Batman to monitor the entire city of Gotham.

Featured images from YouTube and Wikimedia Commons.

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