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CONTEMPORARY URBAN LIGHTING BETWEEN EFFICIENCY AND SUSTAINABILITY

Public lighting today must necessarily meet the criteria of flexibility, dynamism and energy saving. An important support can come from IoT technology, which allows smart devices management.


Lighting systems for outdoor environments require higher quality levels than indoor lighting, particularly with regard to the products installed. The reasons are mainly due to environmental conditions. Corrosion, deterioration and damage caused by atmospheric agents – rain, snow, ice, wind, high and low air temperatures and air pollution – severely test all system components over time, especially luminaires. There is also the need to ensure personal safety and the protection of property in places open to the public night and day, which is never as easy to control as in most indoor environments (Images 1, 2 and 3).

 

LIMITING ENERGY CONSUMPTION

The operation and maintenance of outdoor systems also poses greater challenges. The electricity consumption costs should already be estimated during the design phase, based on the total power consumption of the luminaires and their daily activation time. Three main factors determine the control and limitation of these costs: the luminous efficacy of the lamps and their power supply systems; the light output provided by the luminaire optics; and adequate surface illumination in compliance with current regulations. It is well known that today’s new optoelectronic technology light sources (LEDs) offer high-efficiency values (over 120 lm/W) with excellent chromatic light quality. In addition, the smaller size of LEDs has increased the luminous efficacy of the optics: less light is lost in the luminaire optics (Images 4 and 5).

 

MAINTENANCE WORK

Public authorities and energy companies that operate lighting systems pay particular attention to maintenance work. It amounts to an item of current expenditure that must be evaluated together with the purchase costs of the luminaires. All too often, a product offered at a good price, once installed and commissioned, requires frequent maintenance and additional expenditure for replacement of faulty components. An important consideration is that maintenance work must always be carried out by specialised personnel, properly trained and instructed to perform critical operations in a professional manner, promptly and with regard for health and safety. To work efficiently, these operators must be equipped with the appropriate tools, means and equipment. Luminaires are very often installed several metres above the ground, on masts, structures, walls or ceilings. At times, maintenance work is made more difficult due to the installation site of the lighting system, such as busy historical or tourist centres or streets and squares with heavy traffic. In these cases, the best solution is to reduce periodic maintenance operations as much as possible and keep urgent repairs to a minimum. This makes the average lifespan of the lamps and power supplies an all-important consideration, in order to allow long intervals between scheduled replacements. Higher product quality often turns out to be the best form of investment.

SMART LIGHTING

When it comes to system management, the most important innovation in recent years is smart lighting, one of the most promising results of the technology known as “IoT”, or the “Internet of Things”, a term coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, a researcher at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). “Things” here refers to tangible realities: objects, materials, tools, equipment, mobile phones, modes of transport and various kinds of devices, which “communicate” to each other via a network connection and interact by exchanging signals and data to enable “smart” system management. Not everyone may have noticed, but we are already living in this wireless interconnected world: for example, electricity and gas meters that upload consumption data, video surveillance cameras, lifts, and the mandatory thermostats in heating system radiators. The great simplification and radical change in the use of systems can be clearly seen. All that remains are the electrical lines that power the light sources.

 

LIGHTING SYSTEMS AS CONNECTION NETWORKS

The lighting technology sector offers the great advantage of always having a network system configuration. For example, the lighting of streets, roads and squares is achieved with sets of interconnected luminaires, normally installed on lampposts and distributed in a network throughout urban and suburban areas. “Smart lamppost” is the term used for an element that has evolved into the role of a network node, equipped with devices that collect, distribute and exchange information with other lampposts and with users and managers. In practical terms, to give some examples, lighting can be automatically switched on, off and adjusted according to traffic volumes, the presence of people at pedestrian crossings and weather conditions. The wireless system can also diagnose the operating condition of the luminaires, with obvious advantages for the managing bodies.

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