'Smart' streetlamps light up when you're near

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'Smart' streetlamps light up when you're near

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Did you know that each year streetlights in Europe generate as much greenhouse gas as 20 million cars and cost the public over a‚¬10 billion? Dutch designer Chintan Shah did and while on a night flight, looking down over our glowing planet, he had a bright idea. What if streetlamps only glowed when they needed to?


So Shah invented Tvilight, an intelligent LED street lighting system that only illuminates when it detects people are present.


Shah and his team collaborated with Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands to develop a sensor, called CitySense, that can detect human presence and provide 360 coverage around a light-pole.


"CitySense has two main functions," says Shah. "It dims the light during off-peak hours, but as soon as a person is detected all the surrounding lights glow fully, so they are always in a safe circle of light."


The plug-and-play sensor, integral to the Tvilight lighting network, sends wireless signals to neighboring lights when people are detected. It can be fitted in both conventional and new LED lights and is a major step towards more sustainable roads.


Experienced Dutch innovator Daan Roosegaarde, who acted as a mentor for Shah on CNN's fortnightly tech show Blueprint, has also invented a street lighting system. 'Glow-in-the-dark roads' are painted with strips that contain foto-luminising powder that only light up when necessary. Charged by daylight, the strips illuminate the contours of the road at night for up to 10 hours.


The designer also introduced 'Dynamic Paint', paint that becomes visible in response to temperature fluctuations. For example, ice-crystals become visible on the surface of the road to alert drivers that it's cold and slippery.


Other energy-efficient streetlight concepts include Edan Kurzweil's Night Owl, a solar powered LED streetlight that doubles up as a parking meter.


This flower shaped streetlamp is powered solely by the elements. A concept by industrial designers Zhou Qian and Tao Ma, the petals are both solar panels and a wind turbine, combining the two renewable energies to ensure power in all conditions. Generated energy is stored in on-board batteries, which is then relayed to a set of LED lights after dark.


The trash-powered streetlight concept by Haneum Lee has dual benefits for the environment. The lamppost composts trash and uses the methane byproduct to fuel the streetlight.


One group of American students has even managed to bio-engineer a glowing plant that could replace conventional lamps. Students at the University of Cambridge's genetics department created glowy bacteria that could one day lead to a city lit completely by iridescent trees.





















Tvilight is a streetlamp system that brightens in the presence of people, cars and bicycles
New system could slash energy bills by 80% in cities around the world
Europe spends $13 billion annually on fueling street lights
Artist: "Imagine ... you have this boulevard of interactive lights"




(CNN) -- Imagine if a streetlamp knew you were coming. It could announce your arrival from a distance. If you were on a date, it could help set the mood. It could ring in the new year with dazzling effects, change color at will, even announce days in advance when its bulb was set to blow.
In fact, there is nothing future-tense about this fantastical vision; in a handful of municipalities in Europe, streetlights have become downright chatty.
The system is called Tvilight. It was invented by Dutch designer Chintan Shah while a student at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. When flying overseas, he noticed streetlamps lighting streets that, in the middle of the night, were empty and desolate.
"I started researching," he says. "I wondered, why are they burning? How much does it cost? Is this a problem? I discovered some amazing numbers."
Read more: 12 amazing designs from the past 100 years

Shah found that Europe pays over a‚¬10 billion ($13 billion) a year powering streetlights, which accounts for more than 40% of government energy bills.
This translates into 40 million tons of CO2 emissions annually -- enough to power 20 million cars. His solution was to create an intelligent, "on-demand" lighting system using wireless sensors. Streetlights only light up in the presence of a person, bicycle or car, and remain dim the rest of the time.
Shah has also developed the technology to distinguish between people and smaller animals, like cats and mice, so it would avoid lighting up unnecessarily.
"I thought, why should each citizen pay for street lights that aren't being used? We now have a solution for that."
Spurred on by his professors, Shah entered the concept in a campus competition and won. Delft handed over their facilities and gave him the financial backing to create a demonstration on campus. Since then, Tvilight has been implemented in four municipalities in Holland and one in Ireland, with many more to come.



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"We have enquiries from Israel, Turkey, the United States, Australia, India and Japan. The problem is not a lack of enquiries, it's the team's capacity to deliver the solution worldwide," he says.
Read more: Technology of tomorrow
Shaw reckons the system will slash energy costs and CO2 emissions by 80%, and maintenance by another 50%, thanks to the integrated wireless sensor that allows lamps to alert a central control center when it's time to be serviced.
Tvilight's primary purpose is to conserve energy. But when CNN invited Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde to offer advice as a mentor for Shah, he pointed to the technology's more artistic potential.
"How can we use the technology to make environments more human? More sustainable? More natural?" asks Roosegaarde. "We want to make it like it's your friend, or it's an animal, or it does things you don't know about. It's not just a machine with a feedback loop, but something that has its own intelligence and is willing to negotiate, to hack you in the same way you hack it."
So, for example, an ambulance or fire truck could communicate with the lamps to make them flicker red before they drive through.
Read more: The bright world of electric paint

How can we use the technology to make environments more human? More sustainable? More natural?Daan Roosegarde

"It could save the ambulance two minutes because the light could tell everyone it's coming, and they could move aside more quickly because we control the streets, we control the lamps," says Shah. "It could save a life."
Roosegaarde suggests the uses could be "pragmatic or super poetic."
"Imagine I can write a piece of software, so when I take my girlfriend out for a walk, it does something special, and wow, you have this boulevard of interactive lights," he adds.
It is the type of thinking that garners endless scenarios. Depending on the occasion, streetlamps can flicker and change color to create any number of designs. Shah envisions that during a live sporting event, a street could even spell out the score.
"This is not just about saving electricity, it's not just about the medium, it's about the message, and what you want it to generate," says Roosegaarde.

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