While the return on investment with LED lights is clear, Ebrahimian said there's no established financial ROI for the sensors that will be attached to street poles. Each sensor could cost $150 or more when installed.
While the sensor benefits aren't directly measureable in dollars, they can bring other benefits because they will help city planners and elected officials respond more directly to city problems and citizen needs, he said.
"Frankly, for all cities, you need someone at the top to be able to support sensor tech like this that is cutting edge," Ebrahimian said. "Mayor [Eric] Garcetti has given us amazing support. He's a tech person and embraces all this new technology and is excited by the LEDs and sensors and controls."
Last year, Garcetti talked about the city's lighting and "smart pole" program at a conference, mentioning streetlight cameras that were then being used to spot illegal trash dumping. He also suggested that public Wi-Fi could be attached to city streetlights.
"The mayor calls our streetlights 'information beacons' where data can be disseminated to fire and police and planning officials and the mayor or whoever, so the city can do data analysis and we can put it on a dashboard," Ebrahimian said.
For other city governments weighing smart city technology, Ebrahimian advised not using any single manufacturer to provide sensors, controllers or LEDs. Cities need to perform their own rigorous evaluations of vendor products as well.
Contracts should be kept to short terms, of one to two years, he added. "We don't give three to four year contracts," he added. "We don't trust everything manufacturers are claiming."
However, Ebrahimian also said city governments "should jump on LED lighting" because LEDs are more than 80% more energy-efficient than older technology.
"I don't understand why cities are so slow to implement LED," he said. "What is holding them back?"
Philips Lighting, a division of Philips, first announced a partnership with the city of Los Angeles in 2015 to install smart poles that work with controllers and 4G LTE wireless from Ericsson. Last month at Mobile World Congress, the two companies announced a newer generation of the smart pole technology for use in European cities.
Other vendors also showed smart light pole technology, including Verizon and AT&T.
ShotSpotter makes sensors that can detect gunshot noises which can be put on streetlight poles and roofs. The company has deployments in 90 cities worldwide, including San Francisco.
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