These days a light bulb is no longer just a bulb – it’s smart. Government officials in cities across the U.S. are looking at the latest innovations in lighting with intrigue as they see an opportunity to do a lot more than simply illuminate an area. While these smart light bulbs are well known for their energy efficiency they also offer many more functionalities and are a leading trend helping to drive the larger smart cities movement. Functionalities that smart lights are capable of doing that a traditional lightbulb can’t include: Communicating wirelessly to various networks, collecting various types of data such as nearby foot traffic and even helping to reduce crime rates. With crime and city safety being a major everyday concern to the broader population, we wanted to take a closer look at how cities across U.S. are looking at smart lighting as a technology tool to help fight crime.

Here are 3 cities that are using smart lighting in unique and interesting ways to curb crime:

Smart Lighting for Safer Streets: Cities Go High Tech with Illumination - Onvia

Integrating Gunshot Detection with Streetlights

Gunshot detection is a crime prevention technology that can be installed along city streets to collect data that, in turn, can be used to help reduce crime rates. SST, Inc. the leading provider of this technology is able to record “gunshot like” sounds on city streets and intelligently classify the ‘boom’ or ‘bang’ noises in a system which has learned the difference between a gunshot and other loud noises over time. These systems help public safety agencies respond more quickly the location of gunfire while also helping to collect and map out data about high crime areas.

General Electric (GE), a leading provider of smart lighting solutions, sees an opportunity to bring the technology to its smart light fixtures and help U.S. cities fight crime with technology. Ralph A. Clark, President and CEO of SST, Inc. chimed in on the partnership with GE in a September 2015 press release: “The City of San Francisco, for example, reports an approximate 50% decrease in recorded firearms violence since deploying ShotSpotter as part of their gun violence abatement strategy. This partnership with GE will accelerate the adoption of this technology in other cities by integrating our solution into existing infrastructure in a more comprehensive way.”

Using Streetlights to Aid Emergency Management

Illuminating Concepts is one company that has integrated many emergency management features into their smart streetlight offering called Intellistreets. While these street light poles include many of the more common smart lighting functionalities, such as controlled dimming to reduce energy usage and the ability to record video, the Intellistreets solution also offers unique add-ons designed to aid cities in emergency management situations. These features include embedded call buttons for hands free communication to first responders, emergency evacuation routing capabilities that use sequenced lights with audio and the ability to send announcements to nearby mobile devices.

Illuminating Hotbeds of Crime in City Parks

According to a July 2015 article in Government Technology, Coolidge Park in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee became dangerous for its residents as it increased in popularity among local street gangs. The city found a low-cost solution to the problem by installing remotely operated smart lighting. According to the article, “The park’s safety improved dramatically after the city added lights that police could remotely brighten, dim or flash.” City officials are now able to wirelessly illuminate Coolidge Park’s walkways brightly to deter the criminals that previously took advantage of poor lighting and to welcome residents to safely take a stroll through the park after sundown.

Smart Technologies Offer Cities New Solutions to Old Problems

Smart lighting is just one part of the larger smart cities trend. In the quest to ensure high quality of life for their residents, cities are looking to technologies like smart lighting as a tool that can help them solve age-old problems. Today, cities like San Francisco, Chicago and Chattanooga are fighting crime and beefing up their emergency management with smart lighting. In the near future, the possibilities of using technology to help with city safety issues are limitless. Stay tuned to the Onvia blog for more on how technology is helping government agencies serve you in new and exciting ways.