Launch Slideshow

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Control Freaks

Control Freaks

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    From left, clockwise: Guy Carignan, John-Pierre Desrochers, and Daniel Charest engineered North America's first IP-controlled street-lighting system. Benefits include Web-based control and status reporting.Photo: Francis Vachon

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    Photocell sensors installed on select lights turn all fixtures on and off, helping reduce overall energy use by 30%.Photos: Echelon Corp.

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    Quebec City's first managed-streetlight system was installed in the historical district of Charlesbourg to highlight the buildings' architecture. The lights add charm, especially in winter, making the area more attractive to tourists and residents. Photo: Echelon Corp.

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    Streetlights equipped with electronic ballasts communicate with the segment controller using power line communication and IP protocol. The segment controller provides operational data to, and receives control signals from, remote users via a Web portal. Illustration: Echelon Corp.

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    Quebec City's remotely controlled and monitored streetlight system uses Echelon's LonWorks power line technology and i.Lon Internet servers to reduce energy use at times of peak demand. Shown in this image are the street controller with the segment controller (mounted, upper right), energy submeter, and modem connection to the wide-area network. Photo: Echelon Corp.

LonWorks is an open networking platform for machine-to-machine communication developed in the mid-1990s by Echelon, San Jose, Calif. This multivendor, interoperable control system is covered by ANSI/CEA 709.1 and related standards. Its use is promoted by LonMark International, which develops and maintains technical design guidelines for manufacturers' use. The organization says more than 350,000 LonWorks systems and 100 million LonWorks devices have been installed to date worldwide.

The other important link in the communications system is a local controller that collects and coordinates the data relating to each of the connected lights.

In 1997 Echelon developed its i.Lon Internet server with networking giant Cisco. This device uses IP (Internet protocol) addressing to communicate with the streetlights as well as for programming and other user functions.

Continuing to advance the technology, the company's i.Lon Smartserver, introduced a year ago and optimized for streetlight applications, has a builtin Web interface and power line communication, making it virtually plug-and-play. The device can operate as a stand-alone controller for up to 200 lights or other devices, and can communicate over any IP-based network, wired or wireless. The 5x4x3-inch i.Lon is mounted in a control box using standard DIN rail.

Software. The other important element in a streetlight control and monitoring system is the software that provides the user interface.

One of the advantages of open systems, like LonWorks, is that anyone can develop computer applications to communicate with the devices in the field and use the incoming data in any number of ways. Even so, once software becomes commercially available to perform those tasks, buying a package is often the more expedient option.

Streetlight.Vision, Paris, offers software specifically designed to work with LonWorks-based street-lighting devices. Now in its fourth generation, the software simplifies energy and maintenance savings through preprogrammed functions and reports. Although the software usually is installed on the city or lighting company's computer system, Streetlight.Vision offers a hosted version that speeds installation and cuts initial cost while still providing programming and reporting capabilities.

TWO NORTHERN EXAMPLES

The city of Oslo, Norway, was the first European city to install a managed street-lighting system.

In 2004, Echelon partnered with Phillips Lighting, based in Oslo, and Analogic AS of Kongsberg, Norway, to replace 55,000 streetlights with electronic ballasts from SELC Ireland Ltd. The system uses Echelon's power line communication technology and roughly 1,000 segment controllers to manage the lights and communicate with the city's central monitoring system. Early reports show that electricity use has dropped by half, and predict a five-year return on investment.

Several other European cities subsequently made trial installations as well, and last year Quebec City became the first North American city to install a managed street-lighting system.