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Monday - September 20, 2021

How to Implement Dynamic Lighting Solutions with Smart Nodes

In previous blogs, we discussed smart node technology’s applications for making cities – and first responders’ jobs – safer. In this post, we’ll discuss what putting smart node-controlled dynamic lighting to work for first responders looks like.

Dynamic lighting, or connected streetlight technology, refers to the ability to brighten or dim lighting levels using smart nodes to modulate the power that courses through LED drivers. Cities equipped with smart nodes can raise lighting levels at the site of an emergency, pulse or flash streetlights along the path of first responder vehicles, and make streetlights interact with intelligent transportation systems (ITS) during the transit phase.

This has the potential to dramatically improve the safety of first responders and increase their visibility to other drivers.

Raising Lighting Levels

Many cities keep lights dim during overnight hours to save energy. This, however, can be a barrier to speed and efficiency during emergencies. When using a system equipped with a network of smart nodes, cities can quickly increase lighting during emergencies.

Brightening streetlights near an accident site would alert other drivers to an ongoing emergency response, make first responders more visible and provide them with better lighting in which to work.

Dynamic Pulsing and Flashing

The control mechanism of smart nodes enables LED lamps to “pulse” in a smooth dimming and brightening cycle. Pulsing is distinct from flashing, which can blind or disorient drivers. Pulsing is a safer way to alert drivers to an ongoing emergency response near them.

Dynamic pulsing involves synchronizing the pulsing of multiple streetlights within range of an emergency vehicle in transit. For example, an ambulance responding to an emergency would trigger the pulsing of streetlights within a 750-foot range as well as constant, increased lighting levels within 300 feet.


A lighting system to support first responder operations in a smart city environment involves four main components:

Centralized management system. A network of smart nodes controlled by a central GPS-based platform can be coordinated with 911 operations. This allows first responders to pulse streetlights along emergency routes. Fleet-tracking devices on all first responder vehicles could allow for a fully automated system.

High-powered fixtures. Installing fixtures that are more powerful than required pays off in several ways. Overheating is one of the main reasons LED fixtures fail. Reducing output reduces temperatures and therefore promotes a longer lifespan.

ITS integration. By integrating a smart node network within an ITS, cities can implement a traffic signal preemption strategy and tap into the full potential of smart nodes. An integrated ITS would make a city truly “smart,” with a fully automated system that reacts in real time based on sensor data.

Public awareness. Cities seeking to implement a dynamic lighting strategy should conduct a public awareness campaign. While this campaign will involve cost and complexity, these costs may be partially offset through federal and state road safety grants, and in the long run by fewer accidents and less traffic congestion.

Return on Investment

To estimate the ROI of smart nodes, VENNFROG built a detailed, probabilistic investment simulation model. This model was used in tandem with a simulation, which included more than 10,000 runs based on a set of initial assumptions and a stochastic distribution of the initial variables. The simulation revealed significant benefits of the first responder use case, including a seven percent reduction in accident gravity, and an average improvement of 10 seconds in firefighter response time.

dynamic lighting investment table

Cities with larger populations will reap a bigger ROI, as will those with a metered infrastructure. The simulation revealed that in a city of 90,000 people, a switch to smart nodes could save $500,000 over a period of 10 years. For a city of 200,000 inhabitants, this figure jumps to a net ROI of $1.07 million. For the largest cities, the ROI is extremely significant. Shaving 10 seconds off fire response times alone would save Houston an estimated $18 million each year. In addition, cities that take advantage of an LED retrofit program to install smart nodes are more likely to see a positive return on investment.

Melody Williams Melody Williams
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