Solutions for smart cities in times of pandemic
"At first glance, a street lighting luminaire is just a simple lamp. It provides light, period. Or is it not? In our approach, luminaires can be, already are, much more than that. (...) Street lighting is infrastructure and luminaires are a very valuable resource that we can leveraged."
This article was originally published in the April 2021 print edition of IntelCities.
“Necessity sharpens ingenuity,” goes the saying. And, amid a pandemic crisis, it becomes even more important. We are dealing with a health crisis as we haven´t seen in a hundred years; one that, despite all the available technology, managed to slow down the world, as well as the global economy.
As usual in these situations, new technologies, solutions, or even new ways of being and living appear. We are at a time when we all have the challenge of providing new solutions to this global problem. In this spirit we asked ourselves how we could help and, after some internal discussions, two contexts of action emerged. One linked to lighting, the other to smart cities.
For Arquiled, the lighting vector was more natural. As a company, one of the European pioneers in the LED lighting, with more than 15 years of experience in this sector, was the most obvious step – also when taking into account a context in which ultraviolet type C (UV-C) LEDs are beginning to appear on the market, thus creating an opportunity to develop new solutions.
In less than six months we had already developed the first prototype of luminaires for UV-C disinfection with a new coronavirus elimination rate higher than 99.95%. It is a very promising technology that will make classrooms, offices, and other spaces much cleaner and safer.
However, in the vector of smart cities it was not so obvious what kind of solutions we could use to combat the pandemic. But we knew that we had two important weapons at our disposal.
On the one hand, the new Internet of Things (IoT) platform from Bright Science, our research and engineering company. A platform ranging from end devices (edge computing) to communications and cloud management, and whose flexibility allows for a rapid implementation of any solution.
On the other hand, the experience in street lighting. At first glance, a street lighting luminaire is just a simple lamp. It provides light, period. Or is it not?
In our approach, luminaires can be, already are, much more than that. If you think about it, luminaires are everywhere. All streets, squares, avenues have several of them spaced a few meters apart. In addition, they are connected to the electrical network. They have energy and lamps are at the top, in a privileged position. Street lighting is infrastructure and luminaires are a very valuable resource that we can leveraged.
Social Distancing Monitoring System
Guided by this vision, we developed SDMS – a Social Distancing Monitoring System whose main function, as the name indicates, is to measure social distancing. Based on a passive analysis of the radio spectrum, the system can measure people flows, densities and crowds with an accuracy as good as the number of devices installed. For example, if the device is appplied to all luminaire on a given street, we can have resolutions of about four-square meters.
When resorting to this type of non-intrusive and totally anonymous (guaranteed privacy) solution, it’s possible to know how many people are in a given space and how far apart. And the system can be used both for outdoors and indoors, with very different applications – from density control at fairs, events, as well as on public roads in general, to a centralized system in which the processing of its historical data can predict behavior patterns and, thus, allow the authorities to act pedagogically to deter situations of risky behaviors.
And, most importantly, SDMS value goes way beyond the current pandemic context. Information on the flow of people can be very important for cities management. Either to evaluate the success of events, such as a party in the city center – for example to find out how many people were attracted on those days compared to others and estimate the impact on the local economy – or to analyze what routes are most used by people within the city. The possibilities are endless, and we are still only looking at the tip of the iceberg.
The opportunity is now. It is precisely in times of crisis that we must be able to take a leap and bet on disruptive solutions that allow us to move towards a better future.