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IntelliStreets: Lighting the Way for Sustainable Cities

(Originally published in Global Site Plans, November 10, 2011)
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By Alexandria Stankovich

Fall 2011, independently organized TEDxDetroit assembled an impressive line-up of Michigan entrepreneurs to share their Big Ideas with Detroit's active social network. The focus of the day was sustainability: responsible business, exceptional education, strong communities, and innovative technologies. So, what's the Big Idea for cities? Intelligent Streets.

The IntelliStreets name demonstrates the importance of branding for environmental design. Derived from a southeast-Michigan based company, "IntelliStreets is the wireless digital infrastructure that controls, monitors and maintains the sensory world." The IntelliStreets street light integrates energy efficient technologies and environmental sensors for a dynamic device that both gives and receives data wirelessly.

Dawn to dusk, winter to summer, lighting controls allow clients to adjust light levels for each independent light post according to environmental conditions. With classic, traditional, and contemporary styles and a two-sided LED display, they offer a uniquely customizable urban design product. Creating sustainable cities is a give and take operation; that means learning from and responding to existing conditions. The product employs integrated sensors to promote a cleaner, safer and smarter public thoroughfare by measuring changing environmental variables, including: atmospheric levels for light, water, wind, temperature, gas, and radiation; and pedestrian movement at a busy intersection or outside a major event complex. Via wireless communication, the site-specific information is collected and organized at a central computer for further analysis and manipulation.

In this way, IntelliStreets offers not only a distinctive design component, but a process for further sustainable innovation; capturing critical information for decision makers such as architects, urban planners, and traffic engineers. Easily incorporated into the existing lighting arrangement infrastructure, developers envision a wide application for the IntelliStreets technology in well-established city centers, shopping districts and college campuses, in addition to new planning projects. Where can you envision them?

What does an intelligent street look like for Detroit? Perhaps a safer Wayne State campus, a night life for Midtown and a game-day ready Grand Circus Park. What could an intelligent street look like for Ann Arbor? Grand Rapids? Lansing? Next time you're out, look up; these sleek, smart street lamps will soon be lighting up a city near you.

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