Light the Way to Resiliency

 OP INSTITUTIONAL 01By Lisa Brown

Resiliency is often a priority for municipalities, but the topic has been especially crucial for local government leaders given recent natural disasters. The best methods used to protect one city aren’t necessarily the best approaches for another city. For example, municipalities that face severe hurricanes may need to implement different connected solutions than a city that faces drought conditions. Being prepared for the unexpected not only helps cities protect their investment, but also its residents and visitors. 

A smart city infrastructure can help cities achieve resiliency in addition to keeping its occupants more comfortable and safe. When planning, city leaders should identify their challenges and goals to determine which intelligent infrastructure or solutions to integrate. 

Smart City Goals

Most cities share common goals when implementing smart city infrastructure, including integrating technologies that will help them thrive and succeed for years to come. When determining which advancements will be most impactful to help address public safety, economic development, traffic and aging infrastructure challenges, cities should invest in a strategy that takes advantage of connected technologies. This can help city leaders better manage energy and maintenance costs, reduce environmental impact, enhance comfort and safety, and increase building values.

Existing infrastructure should be considered when determining which connected technologies to implement within a municipality. Implementing new smart city infrastructure can be a large financial undertaking, so leveraging existing infrastructure can give cities a better and quicker return on investment. To do this, city leaders should look at current structures and technologies that can be repurposed and enhanced to create a smart city. In particular, smart lighting can provide cities a point of entry into achieving broader smart city and resiliency plans. 

Lighting as an Entryway 

Streetlights are a crucial component to everyday safety on roadways as well as evacuation routes in emergency situations, and because of this, they’re usually already implemented across cities. This existing infrastructure allows for smart improvements, such as networked LED streetlights, to be easily added and more cost-effective. However, it is the added applications that can be integrated in addition to the networked LED street lights that makes lighting an intelligent stepping stone for a city’s wider smart city plan.

Cameras, sensors and even gunshot detection devices can be installed on top of connected streetlights, bringing much more than illumination. The LED lights can then work with the other applications to improve a city’s resilience. During a hurricane or forest fire for example, using traffic sensors and climate detection, smart street lights can light a path or paths for residents that is both uncongested and safe to pass from flooding or poor air quality. This everyday asset with added intelligence can now be one of the main components that helps improve the speed and safety of evacuations during an emergency. Smart street lighting is a foundation to a multitude of other integrations cities can use in their efforts to become more intelligent and resilient during and after an emergency. 

With smart cities closer to the present than the future, it’s important for local governments to seek information on what is possible in their municipalities. Smart cities and intelligent improvements are the platforms toward more resilient futures for cities, so it is critical for city leaders to understand how advancements can work together to achieve the common goal of creating a safer and more comfortable municipality. Once officials are able to see the more holistic smart future, then they can properly initiate a plan of action. Resiliency is achievable through many smart city enhancements, it is just a matter of deciding what improvements are best for each city.

Lisa Brown is national director for municipal infrastructure and smart cities for Johnson Controls. She is responsible for growth of the local government market in North America, including the development of strategies, offerings and innovations for local government service and systems markets. In 2015, Brown created the Johnson Controls local government urban growth initiative, which combines smart city solutions with community outreach and workforce enhancement for midsize to large municipal customers. 

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