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4 Cities Using Tech to Alleviate Traffic

(Originally published in Mashable Tech, November 16, 2011)
To view original article in its entirety, click here.

by Lauren Drell

4. Farmington Hills, Michigan

Intellistreets - a wireless network of dimmable, programmable and "smart" LED streetlighting that offers energy conservation, safety and traffic direction - has recently been installed in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

The system is the brainchild of Ron Harwood, a lighting expert who worked on Disney's IllumiNations light show. Each pole has its own microprocessor so that they can operate independently and can route around a damaged unit. The poles also have cameras and sensors to monitor traffic flow, which tells the lights if they should dim or brighten. Street names are displayed in LED lights, and banners on the side (where the "stop" sign is in the above photo) can be programmed to show anything, such as an Amber Alert, traffic warnings, directions for an event or even an advertisement. It can all be programmed in real-time or done ahead of time, and for events, this signage saves the cost of producing and distributing physical signage. Intellistreets's digital signage can display any language and can play audio from a concealed speaker, so it can help to inform and direct large crowds.

While Intellistreets can help with traffic flow, it's primary focus is energy conservation: "pulse width modulation" technology makes the lighting more energy efficient. Dimming the lights results in a direct energy savings - dim 25%, see 25% in energy savings and 25% less heat. (Dimming can be programmed based on time of day, foot traffic and vehicular traffic.) Payoff with these LED lights isn't immediate, but their longer life means they could be a better investment than a typical streetlight. Installing Intellistreets along one mile of streets with four lights on each side (so eight per block) would cost somewhere around $600,000 or $700,000, with all the bells and whistles included. "With Intellistreets, if you extrapolated the cost of street lighting over 25 years, our payback is 50% better than any other system on market," says Harwood. "We've taken the long view."

Intellistreets is installed in Michigan, has a presence in Chicago and Philadelphia and is looking to install in New Orleans' French Quarter.

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