Smart lampposts to light the way to a Smart Nation
By Kwan Wei Pin, Executive Manager, Smart Nation Platform Solutions, GovTech
Have you ever thought that the ubiquitous lampposts along the roads could take on another important role in Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative?
An effort is underway to turn these lampposts into a platform for smart sensors, adding a new layer of intelligence to Singapore’s urban environment.
Our Smart Nation Platform Solutions (SNPS) team at GovTech is developing the Lamppost-as-a-Platform (LaaP), in which lampposts are fitted with static sensors — including video, environmental and geolocation sensors — to collect localised data that can enable video and sensor data analytics for a wide range of smart city services.
With these “smart lampposts”, we are able to increase the amount of digital data assets, such as video footage, still images, environmental readings and so on. With these added datasets, we can make use of big data analytics and deep learning capabilities to make informed decisions on urban infrastructure to minimise wastage, help with environmental sustainability, and ultimately improve the lives of the citizens.
We are not alone in our efforts to utilise the lampposts on our streets. Governments, around the world, including the EU, are also taking advantage of lampposts’ ubiquitous coverage to make them a cornerstone of their smart city development efforts.
We have been testing out several use cases for smart lampposts’ ability to enhance and optimise public services using sensor data and analytics.
Infrastructure and data to improve urban mobility
One of the first areas that we worked on is to look at how our digital data assets can provide meaningful information to help improve urban mobility in Singapore.
We have been working with urban planners closely to trial capabilities that can help them design better experiences for drivers, commuters and pedestrians alike. For example, LaaP’s video analytics capabilities have been used in advanced crowd analytics. We can now analyse more data to know things like the number of people waiting at a bus stop or at any pedestrian crossing, and determine the average waiting time needed at such places.
By using camera sensors coupled with our data analytics solution, we were able to display meaningful data in simple formats to help government agencies make informed urban planning decisions. This data can help them optimise the design of public infrastructure and provide more efficient transportation services to improve the experience of commuters and pedestrians.
Another advantage of lampposts is their proximity to roads. We can make use of the lampposts as an interface for vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications. With geolocation sensors on LaaP, we can facilitate the wireless exchange of data between vehicles and road infrastructure. The sensors will communicate with the on-board units (OBU) in vehicles, and we will be able to receive information like location and speed of the vehicles. This data can then be transmitted to an intelligent system to facilitate better traffic flow and to avoid accidents through improved safety measures. Such connectivity solutions will grow in importance when self-driving vehicles become commonplace in the future.
Another area that we have looked at is the issue of shared paths between pedestrians, cyclists and Personal Mobility Device (PMD) users. The use of bicycles and PMDs has gained popularity in recent years. As different users started sharing pedestrian footpaths, this resulted in some disturbance to road users, prompting the promulgation of the regulation of PMDs usage only on cycling paths and park connector networks (PCN). We came up with a solution that can count the number of pedestrians as well as identify bicycles and PMDs on such shared paths and their speeds. Such data is helpful to urban planners when they consider future infrastructure to accommodate all users.
Putting it together
In the course of developing the LaaP, we had to overcome challenges that might not have seemed apparent at first.
As lampposts are only turned on at night, the power to the lampposts is therefore only available from 7pm to 7am each day. We had to look at the power requirements for the connected devices on LaaP to ensure that these devices are functional at all times.
This means that we had to accurately estimate the power consumption of the devices and implement close monitoring of the battery levels. We have set alerts that will trigger if the battery power is below a certain threshold or if the incoming power has not been detected to charge up the battery.
Making sure the installed equipment complies with safety and technical standards is another challenge. We need to get separate structure PE (professional engineer) and power loading tests and certifications for different equipment, like sensors, antenna, Wi-Fi access point etc. This is both time-consuming and costly. To minimise this, we have been working towards a few fixed configurations.
In an urban jungle like Singapore where we enjoy good network connectivity, it could cause some issues as well. Wi-Fi signals on the lampposts could be subjected to interference from nearby equipment that is also transmitting from the same radio frequency. We have to check the bandwidth and latency of the planned locations before any deployment, just to ascertain the reliability of the signal to meet project requirements.
Lastly, to uphold the image of Singapore as a garden city, we have to take into consideration the aesthetics of the equipment and that they will blend in with the surrounding environment. Contrary to the belief that engineers take functionality over design, we actually spend quite some time to work with our vendors to ensure that the equipment mounted on lampposts does not stick out like a sore thumb. Lampposts mounted with clunky, unwieldy camera arrays are unsightly, so the covering and mounting of equipment has to be done nicely so that the system does not adversely impact the surroundings.
We have deployed over 50 lampposts in one-north and Geylang as an initial trial. We are planning to expand the trial to Punggol to develop more smart city use cases for the LaaP. Stay tuned for updates.
Read more about the Lamppost-as-a-Platform.
Wish to find out more about LaaP or share your bright ideas on the possible use cases on LaaP with us? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org