San Diego to deploy world’s largest city-based IoT platform to optimize traffic and parking


The City of San Diego in California is partnering with General Electric (GE) to upgrade the city’s streetlights to reduce energy costs by 60%, as well as transform them into nodes in a connected digital network that can optimize parking and traffic, enhance public safety, and track air quality.

San Diego’s installation of 3,200 smart sensors on streetlight poles will be the largest city-based deployment of an Internet of Things (IoT) platform in the world. The City will be installing smart nodes that can use real-time anonymous sensor data to do things such as direct drivers to open parking spaces, help first responders during emergencies, track carbon emissions, and identify intersections that can be improved for pedestrians and cyclists. The information can also be used to support San Diego’s ‘Vision Zero’ strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries. GE’s digital engine for intelligent environments, called ‘Current’, specializes in creating intelligent environments for commercial buildings and industrial facilities. GE has been working to extend similar digital capabilities across cities via their lighting infrastructure.

San Diego will also be replacing 25% of its outdoor lighting by upgrading 14,000 streetlights with more energy efficient versions, which will reduce energy costs by US$2.4m annually. The Current Evolve LED luminaires include technology that allows for dimming and brightening in public venues manually or automatically, depending on natural light conditions. San Diego expects the project to achieve an estimated 60% reduction in annual energy usage. In addition to reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions, the streetlights will also reduce light pollution. Adaptive controls reduce environmental impacts by providing the ability to further dim the lights on fixtures remotely, based on need or situation, and lumen maintenance capabilities, therefore saving additional energy and the life of the fixture.

The Adaptive Control System is an advanced SDG&E-approved (San Diego Gas & Electric) ‘meter’ that captures real-time interval data, monitoring and notifications for maintenance purposes, and also provides GPS coordinates at each fixture. Over the life of each fixture the system automatically ramps up power as needed to meet specified lighting standards. The 3,200 sensor nodes across the city are the latest step in creating a smart network, as there is the potential to expand to another 3,000 points in the future. The anonymous information from the sensors can be used by developers to create apps and software that can benefit the community. Installation of the new lights will begin citywide this summer and the project is expected to be completed by autumn 2018.

“We’re honored to be part of this historic transformation,” said Maryrose Sylvester, president and CEO of Current. “We have a proud history of helping San Diego proactively save energy through efficient lighting, and now we’re expanding that same infrastructure beyond energy into a new realm of intelligence.”

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer added, “Fostering innovation and improving infrastructure are important to enhancing the lives of all San Diegans. This new technology will give the City and developers the opportunity to make our neighborhoods safer and smarter.”

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).