From Smart Lighting to Smart Cities: The DOLL’s Living Lab Experience

by Julia Arneri Borghese, Paradox Engineering SA

Contemporary cities are looking increasingly for smart, flexible solutions to save energy, improve livability and sustainability and boost urban economy.

Technology can play a major role in the evolution toward smarter urban environments, as acknowledged by advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solutions that better monitor and control energy, gas and water distribution networks.

Thanks to the Internet of Things, it is possible to go beyond smart metering and add intelligence to objects in our cities-light poles, meters, parking lots, solid waste bins and many more-and integrate them into a wider network to design and manage smart energy, water, waste and mobility services.

Consider public lighting. There are some 4 billion street lamps around the world, and most still have mercury or other obsolete luminaires, according to the Smart Lighting Alliance. Replacing these lights with LED-based devices can reduce energy consumption and save cities significant money.

Take an example from Milan, where some 147,000 lamps are being renewed with LED technologies by the end of 2016. Expected savings are some 11 million euros. Considering that LED lamps normally last five times as long as traditional luminaires, the initiative will allow Milan to use 60,000 fewer lamps annually, preventing some 24,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, according to a May 12 article in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Exploring innovative and energy-efficient lighting technologies with the opportunity to turn existing infrastructures into smart networks was the cornerstone idea of the Danish Outdoor Lighting Lab (DOLL), the large-scale pilot project promoted by the city of Copenhagen for the development of future LED-lighting solutions. Launched in September 2014, DOLL aims to promote energy efficiency through intelligent indoor and outdoor lighting solutions and foster job creation. DOLL is a consortium of three partners: the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), the municipality of Albertslund and Gate 21, a partnership of local authorities, private companies and research institutions.

Conceived to cover a wide spectrum of lighting applications, the DOLL platform includes the Quality Lab for experiments around artificial light, the Virtual Lab for 3-D-generated products and models and the Living Lab, an urban display that stretches some 9 kilometers and covers some 1.5 square kilometers where lighting, intelligent controlling and smart city solutions are showcased in a real outdoor setup on a 1-1 scale.

Within the Living Lab at Hersted Industrial Park in Albertslund, a suburb of Copenhagen, Paradox Engineering proposes its own approach to smart technologies together with global lighting company Thorn. By implementing an ultra-low power IPv6/6LoWPAN full mesh wireless network platform, Paradox Engineering’s PE.AMI Lighting Management solution transforms each luminaire into an intelligent connected object, enabling actions including remote monitoring and control with on/off, dimming and alarm management functions.

To showcase the potential of this platform, Thorn installed a series of LED-based Oxane L road lanterns, which feature excellent lighting and through-life performance, as well as high efficiency and luminaire efficacy. According to the Internet of Things paradigm, PE.AMI allows each lamp to become a node of a full mesh wireless network that supports both narrowband and broadband to create bidirectional communications and manage the entire infrastructure remotely, allowing for closely monitored lighting performance and decision-making whenever necessary.

PE.AMI is a hybrid wireless and PLC network platform, meaning it can support data transmission via wireless and power lines over the same IPv6/6LoWPAN protocol and full mesh topology. This is a step forward for utilities and urban services providers because they can trust a unified communication platform for all architectures where wireless connectivity may be less appropriate (i.e., crossing buildings, underwater, metallic enclosures, etc.) or power line communication may not be suitable because of technical constraints (i.e., imposing linear connections between nodes). Hybrid nodes such as PE.AMI PLC Nodes add seamless PLC capabilities to the existing wireless network technologies. Still managing RF transmission, they can interface power lines and transfer data over the grid leveraging the same IPv6/6LoWPAN protocol.

If deployed in an operating urban infrastructure, the solution lets the municipality or service provider define a customized lighting pattern for single districts, streets and even single lamps, thus managing on/off and dimming actions according to programmed schedules (i.e., combinations of time, daily solar times, specific local circumstances or events, weekly variations for given groups, etc.), environmental inputs (i.e., measured light levels, temperature, motion, etc.) or on demand (i.e., in case of emergencies or public security issues). Energy efficiency, reduction of overall footprint and public cost savings are significant.

But there’s another element that DOLL’s Living Lab highlights. Because the street lighting architecture is normally pervasive in a city, covering nearly all districts and suburbs, municipalities tend to leverage the existing infrastructure as the core network to manage other urban services and conceive further applications that might become necessary. That’s a key feature of smart technologies ready for the Internet of Things.

When based on open standards and natively multipurpose, a smart urban network can accommodate public lighting services and host additional applications over the same integrated infrastructure, such as smart parking, smart metering, smart waste, public Wi-Fi and many more, allowing cities to evolve into genuine smart cities.

DOLL’s pilot project in Copenhagen with hundreds of lights installed in Albertslund is a good example of how smart technologies can improve the urban everyday experience, grant a better quality of living and sustainability and taste the Internet of Things through concrete, easy urban services.

Julia Arneri Borghese is vice president for business development and strategic alliances at Paradox Engineering SA. Reach her at


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