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Smart lighting systems and lampposts

On this page you will find lessons learnt that are distilled from various workshops that the SCIS team attended. The most important points are summarised, giving a quick overview of the challenges / barriers but also solutions with regard to each topic.
Smart Lighting Systems & Lampposts
Lesson identified at: 


Smart lighting systems and lampposts are often associated with technical problems. As a result, maintenance costs can be high, especially when they are implemented on a small scale. Besides, new lighting systems save energy but they might require more material resources, and are therefore not be definition more sustainable than the existing infrastructure. On the other hand, smart lampposts could provide other benefits on a system scale, which could improve their overall sustainability impact. However, too often these benefits are not yet clearly identified, which in turn makes it hard to find sustainable business models for the sensor ecosystem and to identify ways of making the investment future proof.

Other challenges include politician’s lack of engagement and limited initial interest in the project by citizens, probably due the absence of clearly identified benefits (to learn more on how to engage citizens, have a look at the Citizen Engagement page).

Also, a lack of knowledge about the new technologies is a common barrier. The same holds for public procurement: procedures are lengthy and focused on price, resulting from a lack of experience in innovative procurement. (Go to our dedicated page to learn more about the challenges and potential solutions within Innovative Procurement of Smart City Solutions.)

And of course, legacy systems and legacy contracts could impede the roll out of smart lighting systems.

From a governance perspective, smart lighting projects might encounter resistance when it comes to joint working. Smart lighting systems do cut across silos, and therefore will bring engineers and other stakeholders out of their comfort zone. A lack of examples and use cases makes it even more challenging to find effective ways of collaborating across different disciplines, especially when one realizes the capacity for standard development and asset allocation within municipalities is low.


It is undeniable that political leadership can drive change, so having a clear policy plan available would definitely help the roll out of an innovative system with smart lampposts. Some participants to the workshop also mentioned that  a lighting system replacement increases employment, which could be an argument in favor of its roll-out.

In order to get users of the smart lighting system engaged, cities should not only build a system for local businesses to benefit from but they should also demonstrate the value of the data that is being collected, including social and environmental value.

Ambitious cities willing to implement a smart lighting system (and in extension also other smart city solutions) can exploit the project websites from the Lighthouse Program for tools and knowledge instead of doing just another pilot. Furthermore, they should utilize standards to drive change and strengthen business cases, build a convincing case for politicians and engage with financial players. Collaboration and being transparent with citizens and partners from the beginning may be considered as a code of conduct, since the technology’s multidisciplinary character offers opportunities to do things collectively; securing buy-in form legacy arrangements will speed up the project’s execution and strengthen the business case. And finally: think ahead. Where is the potential to exploit? Did you think about 5G, supporting SMEs, IoT, …?

Plan for Implementation: next steps

Cities that are eager to implement smart lighting systems and lampposts should identify and combine learnings from other projects across Europe. Persons in charge can engage with politicians and inhabitants using the guidance from Lighthouse Projects to express the benefits and explain the risks. Furthermore, they can engage with officers using a supporting document, especially when engaging financial stakeholders. A workshop to test materials from Lighthouse projects and to explore the potential of smart lighting in your local context can also be set-up. Additionally, motivated cities can explore larger pilots and can start to leverage the scale within their own city or other cities while meanwhile continuing smaller tests with new technologies/systems/solutions. One of the paths to investigate into more detail could be data monitoring. Finally, it is also recommended to think rather from a social than a financial perspective: think about what makes people happy.