Smart Streetlights

Principal Investigator(s):

Thomas Fisher, Professor/Director, Metropolitan Design Center

Project summary:

Streetlights, as with many pieces of a city's infrastructure, offer an enormous opportunity as we digitize our world. Often, when a city starts delving into municipal technology projects, they start with streetlights. At first, this is a simple cost-savings option when older streetlights are updated to light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures. However, this inherent infrastructure can help propel a city into a smart city in a very powerful way. Making our streetlights smarter is about much more than making lights LED; it is about allowing the construction of an economic platform that knits our communities together.

A smart lighting grid can allow different city departments to access and share data, allowing robust 5G connectivity throughout the city and providing municipal WiFi access. A city's police and fire departments can increase the brightness of streetlights during an emergency. Citizens benefit from a dynamic system that illuminates streets upon need, not only upon time of day or sunlight available. Citizens can get internet access, find parking easier, and have more robust way-finding solutions, to name just a few advantages. A digital platform like this can allow a whole new economy to form and operate in a way that benefits the city.

While taking an approach that could be adopted for regional scale, researchers are focusing the initial project on the City of Grand Rapids, where the smart streetlights would dovetail with the autonomous vehicle mobility initiative (Grand Rapids CAV) and routes--providing smart lighting; communications through kiosks attached to smart streetlights; internet of things (IoT) sensors to monitor foot and vehicular traffic, air quality, and safety features; potential 5G nodes on the lights to provide last-mile WiFi and bandwidth to passengers, residents, and small businesses within the "mobility hub" component of the CAV--to enhance and serve the multivariate stakeholders including everyday users of the CAV. The project will entail consulting and coordination of assessments/analysis and solution definition to make the city-owned streetlights "tech hubs," including but not limited to more efficient, enhanced lighting quality on key routes and enable community mobility capabilities.


Project details:

  • Project number: 2022047
  • Start date: 09/2021
  • Project status: Completed
  • Research area: Transportation Safety and Traffic Flow