Control Systems Make LED Street Lights More Efficient

Because LEDs are basically electronic devices, they can be synced with control systems in new, unprecedented ways. SmartWatt designs LED street lights with advanced controls that are supported by a wired or wireless network and remote management software. These controls link LED street lights with sensors, switches and dimmers that municipalities can use to alter the intensity of the light, turn lights on and off and report outages. This fine tuning translates into an unheralded precision: municipalities can switch on their street lighting when foggy or rainy conditions require more light, and even dim them when appropriate, such as to reduce glare when there’s snow cover. When accidents or emergencies occur, public safety personnel can increase lighting levels or have LED street lights flash. Motion sensors can be programmed to brighten lamps in response to the presence of cars in parking garages or pedestrians in parking lots.

A few other impressive feats of programming have already been implemented.

In Eeneind, a city located in the Netherlands, the city uses a system that dims LEDs to just 20 percent of power when no one is in the area. As soon as a fixture detects someone, it launches full power mode and tells other lights in the person’s path to start to brighten as well. Systems like this can minimize energy usage, maximize safety and limit light pollution. Another innovation already put to good use is custom metering: Utility-grade control systems that record the power use at each light so that a city with appropriate tariffs in place only pays for the power it uses. This humble yet effective feature helped the small town of Tarentum, Penn., population 4,500, save $40,000 per year.

Still, despite the bevy of benefits associated with integrating controllers into LED street lights, many cities decide not to include them because of cost. Another obstacle to widespread adoption is a lack of standardization among the manufacturers who offer networked control. Controversy remains over what constitutes the best networking technology for street light control. The two main contenders are wired and wireless systems. Here is a little more info regarding the two prevalent standards.


This standard enables data to be sent over existing power cables and is popular in a range of smart grid applications.


This standard is a wireless protocol linked with sensor communications and “Internet of Things” applications. Both mesh and point-to-multipoint network architectures are used in wireless deployments. One advantages of this standard is that it can work in tunnels and other places that don’t lend themselves easily to new power lines.

Out of necessity, many design-build firms are supporting both wired and wireless options in many municipal projects. Both standards have advantages and disadvantages. Open standards may be the answer, as they can promote interoperability of network implementations. An example of how the two standards can work well together is systems already in place that utilize wired controls at the luminaire level and wireless controls to communicate with the centralized smart city control centers.

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