Safer and more modern cities with adaptive LED lighting

Not only are LED street lights more efficient, they also provide the option of installing closed circuit TV systems and adaptive lighting technology that automatically adjusts illumination. And, in addition to complying with Italy’s UNI11248 standards, in terms of traffic, weather and luminance, they have significant safety benefits.

Published on 2 March 2020

The characteristics and benefits of LED street lights – Enel X

LED street lights are already very common in Europe’s cities. While this may not yet be the case in Italy, something appears to be changing. Several Italian municipalities have recently announced plans to introduce them to replace the traditional street lights: Reggio Emilia will install 36,000, Bari has earmarked 5 million euros to replace the old models, as has Rieti, while Livorno has already made advances in an operation to overhaul the entire city’s public lighting system.

There are many advantages to these new sources of light, starting with the cost savings that they generate. However, safety is another, often overlooked, benefit. LED is different from traditional lighting in that software can be installed in order to modulate the quantity of light emitted by analysing the conditions of traffic, weather and luminance.  When the street lights are connected, and equipped with sensors, this characteristic provides centralised and automated management of street lighting. It is known as adaptive lighting and its purpose is to create ideal driving conditions night and day by measuring traffic, visibility and weather conditions. This application is highly significant because it creates optimal visual comfort for drivers, cyclists and motorcyclists.

There are two different types of adaptive lighting. The first - TAI, Traffic Adaptive Installation - is based solely on traffic conditions:  a higher density of transiting vehicles during a certain time interval will necessitate regulation of light intensity to ensure optimal visibility on the road.  In contrast, the absence of traffic, during the central night hours for example, prompts a reduction in power to the legal minimum to reduce light pollution and consumption as much as possible. 

A technological step on from TAI is FAI - Full Adaptive Installation - which calculates not only traffic density but also includes a range of other parameters such as the weather conditions and luminance, the luminosity effectively perceived on the road. In this case, road conditions are fully monitored in real time making regulation of the LED lighting even more modulated and precise.

In both cases (TAI and FAI), adaptive lighting represents the latest frontier in terms of public lighting and demonstrates how even a “basic” public service such as the lighting of our roads can be “smart.”

When traffic is very low or non-existent in a time range during the central hours of the night, the system reacts by reducing the lighting to the lowest possible setting. The moment that the system registers an increase in vehicle flow, the system responds reactively by increasing the illumination. The system responds in the same way when the road registers unusual conditions, such as accidents or maintenance work on the surrounding roads which make it unusually busy. In this case, the technology is able to identify the anomaly – in terms of traffic variation – and consequently keeps the lighting at the highest level to ensure maximum visibility.

This technology clearly manages to ensure maximum energy savings at the same time as improving street safety, thereby making it possible to have a public lighting service of the highest possible quality. A key role in these cases is also played by the various pieces of technology with which the lighting is equipped (in addition to LED). They include new generation sensors or smart cameras that are able to assess environmental conditions with increasing accuracy, and IoT (Internet of Things) connections that can link the individual lights by using the city’s wireless or fibre optics networks.

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