Around the world, more municipalities are increasingly demanding higher levels of control, monitoring, and energy- efficiency. For more than 10 years, Portugal-based Enlight has designed and deployed sophisticated urban lighting solutions around the world – devices that are designed for the utmost reliability in the harshest environments. Enlight is a pioneer in smart-city devices, including street light control solutions and best-in-class lighting and cabinet controllers.
Few areas draw as much attention, time, and budget scrutiny as the network of thousands of street lights deployed in every urban environment. From safety concerns arising from broken bulbs to escalating energy costs and maintenance headaches, street lights are a hot-button issue for government administrators, law enforcement personnel, and, of course, constituents.
Furthermore, Cities are increasingly handing-over street lighting operations to external partners under a determined Service Level Agreement, which performance is appraised using Key Performance Indicators that have to be measured and recorded. Aiming to turn this challenge into opportunity, Enlight – a name that underscores the company’s commitment to energy and lighting solutions – has devoted its business to developing and producing smart networks of street lights in urban environments – from streets and avenues to parks, playgrounds, and plazas.
According to Miguel Lira, general manager for Enlight, new technologies continue to evolve and municipalities want to do more than turn lights on and off. They want full smart solutions for monitoring and controlling energy, and managing maintenance.
“At first, we just provided basic services to manage street lights – just turning them on and off,” he said, “but as new technologies emerged, we were soon integrating hardware, software and finally producing smart lighting devices. But as the sophistication of these devices grew, so did our need for bandwidth to transmit more secure data at faster speeds and with greater reliability.” Previously, Enlight installations tapped into the actual electrical cable power the street lights as the communication channel. “At the time, RF communication was not reliable, stable, or well-developed,” Lira said, “but the powerline was noisy and not fully reliable.”
As municipalities need richer functionality and granular controls, such as photo-sensors to measure dawn/dusk light (or adverse weather) and dim or raise lights, Enlight began to build its own devices. Today, Enlight devices meter all electrical parameters of a light and they can send notifications about burned-out bulbs or other maintenance issues. “We decided the best approach would be to build our own devices with smart sensors and networking,” Lira said. “We also created a smartphone app to simplify pinpoint installations based on GPS coordinates and test the lights by turning them on and off from the phone in the field.”
When it came time to select networking components, Lira said, Digi rose to the top. “We were looking for a supplier that could handle our communications needs,” he said. “Digi had all of the criteria we were looking for. We needed the ability to easily implement our own protocol in RF – Digi had it. We needed to deploy mesh networks – Digi had it. We needed the flexibility to switch between 2.4 GHz and 900 MHz – Digi had it. We wanted high speed and low latency – and Digi had it.”
The Enlight engineering team requested samples and a development kit and quickly found success. “We started working with it and realized, ‘Wow, this very easy to do.’ We were able to implement our solution with Digi – integrating our protocol using the Digi API framework. It was fast and easy to create our own communication card for our smart lighting devices based on Digi. We're very happy with the outcome.”
In an Enlight deployment, a street light contains a smart device controlling that light. It communicates through a mesh network to a local control box on that street/block. At the control box, a Digi cellular gateway autonomously manages all of the street lighting groups assigned to it, using programmed instructions from a centralized operations center. “We can use different dimming profiles for different fixtures, streets, and neighborhoods,” Lira explained. “And we can centrally override them, too. So, if there’s a street festival, we might turn lights on earlier and ensure they’re at the brightest levels. But if there’s fireworks later, we can turn them way down during the show.
“We also use Digi’s technology to notify us of alarms at any fixture. If there’s a lamp failure, we get a real-time notification, so we can respond promptly. With Digi, we can cover far more territory and pursue installations in bigger locales.”
Lira noted that the aggregated data from the controllers also helps them spot trends “The gateway stores the data it collects. Then we periodically send it to a remote database server where we can analyze the logs and find ways to improve our performance. Today, Enlight can target large scale projects, gather real-time information to municipalities and deliver results immediately.
“We’re very pleased with the speed, reliability, and overall performance of Digi’s networking components, which are making smart street lights a reality.”