Smart Lighting Technologies to Keep Cities Safe from Quakes and Other Natural Disasters

This article is part of GE series on the Internet of Things to mark GE’s participation as a Diamond Sponsor of the IoT World Congress this week in Barcelona. Disasters like the L’Aquila earthquake, which shook central Italy in the early hours of April 6th, 2009, can cause widespread damage and take lives.

Disasters like the L’Aquila earthquake, which shook central Italy in the early hours of April 6th, 2009, can cause widespread damage and take lives.

What if we could avoid them?

We can’t yet stop earthquakes from happening. But experts are developing smarter ways of spotting earthquakes and other natural disasters before they hit.

Connected smart lighting and other devices can make cities safer to live in and alarm residents of an oncoming quake, floods or even air pollution levels. Image here showcases connected devices for residential applications. (Image courtesy of GE)

In Spain, they’re going on the offensive. Situated in the province of Girona, northeast of Barcelona, La Garrotxa is known for its volcanic landscape. It has become one of the first test sites for this kind of early warning system. Not only is it preparing for earthquakes, it’s also bolstering its alerting system for other disasters like flooding and forest fires. 

The system uses Wi-Fi technology linking 40 different types of environmental sensors.  A city ‘dashboard’ enables officials to track a range of variables. These include river levels for early signs of floods, temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide and monoxide levels. Since the region is arid and prone to wildfires, monitoring the dashboard could prevent costly damage. 

Sensors like these can be a valuable addition to cities when they’re connected to each other and to the internet. Most can be hidden away on top of street lights and can serve many purposes. They’re just one of the many ways that smart cities can enhance quality of life without intruding on citizens when they’re not welcome. 

When sensors meet LED street lighting, it creates an intelligent form of communication. What’s more, it doesn’t just benefit one street, it spans an entire city.

Lights against pollution

Cities that are ballooning in size worldwide, causing a growth in pollution. City bosses are calling on sensors to counteract the problem. If they can understand how and when pollution increases, they can do more to tackle it head-on. Intelligent lighting, which incorporates sensors, can provide the right information to drivers. It won’t tell them to abandon their vehicles - it will provide more practical options when pollution is high. 

For instance, when the lights spot excessive pollution, they can guide drivers towards other routes. Car dashboards could show much more than speed and fuel levels. They could show local pollutant levels and also those on alternative routes. Intelligent traffic routing would reduce CO2 and city centre traffic in one fell swoop. 

The more things that cities connect, the better its response to pollution can be. Lighting can communicate with public transport to provide information to help provider greener options. They could even speak to nearby electric vehicles that are available for hire. It might sound strange now, but with the shared economy on the up, this flexibility could become commonplace. 

GE’s Predix software platform is a vital part of an intelligent city infrastructure. It’s what makes sense of all the data produced by the various assets in a city. A growing network is what the software thrives on to provide insight and power informed decision-making.  

Natural disasters and high pollution are inevitable. But taking a smart approach by connecting our cities is the shape of things to come. As result, we’ll be better prepared and better placed to deal with the consequences.  

To find out more about Intelligent Cities, click here. You can follow GE Lighting on Twitter here.

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