An Innovative and Easy Way to Map LED Streetlights

MIT researchers headed by Sumeet Kumar, have developed a new way to map streetlights. This innovative method takes a cue from Google’s fleet of street view cars. The researchers have come up with a set of sensors that can be mounted on top of cars that regularly drive around the city at night.

Monday, June 26, 2017 - 15:21

Nations across the globe have started to replace their high-pressure light bulbs with more energy-efficient alternatives such as LED. However, most cities inspect their streetlights manually, which is extremely time consuming and expensive as well. Usually a person is hired to roam around the city and map the streetlights.

MIT researchers headed by Sumeet Kumar, have developed a new way to map streetlights. This innovative method takes a cue from Google’s fleet of street view cars. The researchers have come up with a set of sensors that can be mounted on top of cars that regularly drive around the city at night.

The current streetlight mapping method is vastly manual-labor intensive, and hence, may take several months to collect data for a few neighborhoods with reliable accuracy, said Kumar.

The new mapping way will help in eliminating such issues. The sensors measure the lighting levels on the streets and the height of each streetlamp. Further, the GPS also locates each pole and collects the data into a map. This will help city officials to visualize the areas that require repairs.

Machine learning will help the sensors to differentiate between streetlights and background light from sources such as windows. As of now, the researchers have tested the system in four cities which including Boston, two cities in Spain and Birmingham in the UK.

Developing such system is a small part of the challenge. The main hurdle lies turning it into an actual product. The technology has been developed but getting cities to go for test driver is an issue that is rarely considered high on a city’s list of major concerns, Kumar said.

However, Kumar is hopeful that there will be more enthusiasm around these kinds of smart city initiatives, particularly as research makes it easier and cheaper for governments to identify their issues in an accurate manner. Hence, the government can budget and prioritize repairs for their streetlights rather than fixing all the streetlights at one go.

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