December 10, 2015 — The City of San Jose began a pilot project with 50 Philips SmartPoles on Dec. 7, which brings together energy-efficient LED lighting, LTE wireless technology by Ericsson and two-way communicating meters from Pacific Gas and Electric. Last month, the of Los Angeles debuted a similar 100-SmartPole pilot project. Both pilots will enable small cells and eventually Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity for smart city applications.
“Integrating our LTE small cells in Philips SmartPoles and Ericsson Zero Site ensures that the mobile broadband connectivity requirements of citizens and new IoT applications can be addressed today and as we evolve towards 5G,” said Arun Bansal, senior vice president and head of business unit radio, Ericsson.
In these first two deployments, Philips used a business model that it envisions will facilitate the future of network densification in urban areas. Through public/private partnerships, Philips will provide private funding for the light pole infrastructure, Christoph Herzig, general manager and head of Venture, Philips Connected City Experience, told AGL Small Cell Link in a phone interview.
“Enabling the City to do this on a large scale requires us to provide private funding. The business model is as innovative as the technology itself,” Herzig said.
Philips will work with the city to gain zoning approval for light pole construction and lease space on the poles to the operators.
“Managing the zoning process for the mobile carriers requires a deep understanding of the city’s permitting process and its vision of how the urban habitat should be developed: avoiding additional clutter on sidewalks and street corners,” Herzig said. “The city benefits because it does not have to deal with multiple carriers.”
In San Jose, the Philips SmartPoles, along with 750 Philips RoadFocus LED luminaires, are connected through a system in which the city can wirelessly control its lighting. Philips collaborated with PG&E’s metering engineering team to design, test, certify and install a specialized two-way communicating meter at the top of the SmartPole.
“We believe that connected street lighting is a good first step to building out smart cities and harvest the benefits of smart infrastructure,” Herzig said. “As Philips, we are not going to be the platform for the smart city. That is why we are partnering with other companies to bring a much broader solution to the city, as well as to help the operators become more city-friendly.”
Sridhar Vadlamuti, head of partnerships and alliances, Ericsson North America, downplayed the hype surrounding small cells, advising that light poles are not the only location for small cells. But he confirmed that light poles are the most elegant solution for mobile operators’ urban coverage needs.
“This is a niche application. Not every light pole will be a small cell,” Vadlamuti said. “[Deploying small cells in light poles] is important for operators to pinpoint and be closer to the pain point of the capacity crunch. The elegance and aesthetic appeal of the light pole is probably the best in terms of street furniture that we have today.”
The future of light poles for use in the Internet of Things, however, is wide open, according to Vadlamuti. “There are exciting possibilities for the future of IoT. Light poles could be the location for all sorts of sensors for things like pollution and gun shots, which could notify everyone from the EPA to the law enforcement,” he said.
Herzig said Philips is close to announcing the next city to pilot a SmartPole project and that his company is ready for mass deployment.
“Not just one city endorses this solution. We are starting a movement and we are talking to many cities at this stage. Los Angeles and San Jose just happen to be the first,” Herzig said. “We are ready to scale up. We have agreements with other carriers and other cities that are kicking in big time now.”