Look to the smart grid for smart city lessons (Part 2)


By: SGN Staff


By Sterling Hughes


In part one of this series, we paved the five step on-ramp to ‘Smart City’ by looking at smart street lights as an application entry point for a citywide network. We know that cities such as Copenhagen and Paris are realizing as much as an 80 percent increase in ROI by replacing legacy streetlights. And, in the process, are implementing a standards-based canopy that enables them to break down organizational silos and establish a platform for future Smart City applications.


To understand some of the imperatives in building such networks, let’s take a closer look at the experience of utilities - in many cases these are risk-averse organizations that have overcome barriers in building their own machine-to-machine (m2m) networks through smart grid initiatives. Utilities initially valued the smart grid primarily for the operational savings it could yield but, with the right technology decisions, have been able to extend the value and impact of their investments. Now, the opportunity has arisen for cities to do the same.

Leveraging Industry Standards

Standards are at the heart of every technological revolution. We’ve seen this occur throughout history as the telecom, transportation and industrial manufacturing industries - and of course, the Internet - have evolved. Smart grid networks also deliver their full potential when the industry embraces a set of common standards. For utilities, standardization opened the way to choose among the best meters or thermostats, as well as to integrate back-office software.


Smart City applications will be similar. With smart street lights, operators should demand flexibility and choice in photocells and luminaires combined with agile control system integration.  Communication systems must implement standards that can be implemented by multiple companies, to avoid vendor lock-in. 


With lighting control management software, adherence is an important standard to drive acceptance. An exciting development in the lighting industry is the TALQ Consortium, where the industry has come together to define what plugs into outdoor lighting networks, on devices such as light points controllers, gateways, segment controllers and sensors, to save energy and drive maintenance optimization.


When it comes to hardware and system-level functional specifications, the industry is very active working with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) committee to help set parameters for photocells. Many of the participants in the ANSI committee are utilities, with a long experience implementing smart grid standards. ANSI C136 sets Standards for Roadway and Area Lighting for a variety of lighting situations, such as Luminaire Field Identification.


Silver Spring aims to honor choice for each city’s environment. Because open standards are the basis of our business, Silver Spring’s broad ecosystem has over 75 partners, including LED Roadway Lighting, SELC, and Sunrise Technologies.

At the start of every project, Silver Spring can design a scalable mesh network design plan to implement an efficient and effective communications network within a service territory, including strategy on what wireless carriers will best suit the needs of a cityscape.


Extensible Platforms for the Future

Providing a common network for both smart grid and Smart City infrastructure enables for the platform benefits to increase with each new application, whatever the entry point for the network. An investment in a Smart City application such as intelligent street lights can pay for the network canopy for a smart grid, or vice versa.


For example, looking at smart street lights, once they are rolled out adding multiple applications strengthens the value of a network. The more sensor nodes and routers that are connected, the stronger the web of an outdoor radio network becomes to evolve into things like Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), Demand Response (DR) and Distribution Automation (DA).


Your Smart City story may begin with smart street lights, but to achieve maximum cost and energy savings, additional city assets such as intelligent traffic controls, audio and video surveillance, pollution sensors, EV charging infrastructure and smart digital signage, can be added to the network as soon as there is a business need.


Industry Leaders Gather at Smart City Expo, Barcelona

Our experience shows that utilities unlocked significant value by leveraging a single IPv6 network to automate meter services alongside additional applications such as demand response (DR) and distribution automation (DA). Smart street lights may serve as the initial Smart City application, but communities will want to support a variety of services.


By taking a page from the smart grid book of imperatives, cities can make decisions that will lighten the load of adding other Smart City applications in the future.


Silver Spring Networks will be joining city leaders, technology providers, and many of the industry’s thought-leaders at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona November 19-21. Come join us to learn more about the imperatives critical to the success of your Smart City program.


Sterling Hughes, Head of Advanced Technology, has been with Silver Spring Networks since 2004, and currently heads up development for new market initiatives, including Silver Spring's Smart Cities business and many of its international activities. While at Silver Spring, Hughes has held multiple roles, most notably leading the design and development of Silver Spring's IPv6 networking fabric and, in the process, authoring more than 10 domestic and international wireless networking patents. Prior to joining Silver Spring, Hughes was one of the core developers of the PHP programming language and spent 10 years working on high-performance websites, including Friendster, FAST Search & Transfer, and Yahoo!.