Dutch Utility Provider Reinvents Approach to Public Lighting

Alliander, Holland's largest grid operator, has entered into a partnership with 15 cities, enabling their local governments to use an IoT application to control streetlights and conserve energy.
By Marsha W. Johnston
Jun 25, 2015

Few sectors of the world economy are slower to adapt to change than utilities, particularly when that change requires the relinquishing of any control over infrastructure. But Alliander, Holland's largest operator of electricity and gas grids, is breaking the mold. Last year, the utility founded Smart Society Services, a new business that has built the Open Smart Grid Platform (OSGP), an open-source software platform that allows municipalities to control and manage lighting—and, eventually, other public-facing systems as well, such as waste collection and energy metering—by using standards-based protocols and Internet of Things devices.

This year, Alliander will begin to hand over control of public street lighting to Dutch municipal governments. The change will come via its rollout of FlexOVL, the first IoT solution based upon the OSGP.

"Municipalities want to control their lighting systems without having to depend on a single supplier," said Hans van Egmond, Smart Society Services' general manager, in a presentation at the Global Smart Cities Challenge in Washington, D.C., on June 1. "They want to manage switching times and dimming times, and more efficiently maintain the public lighting network."

Alliander was a founding partner during the first phase of Amsterdam's Smart City effort that began in 2009, and launched a street-lighting pilot in 2013. As it acquired IoT expertise, and as demand rose for more remote control and monitoring of smart devices, the company found itself stymied by commercial systems and the inflexible World War II-era "ripple" load-control mechanism. Thus, it began developing the OSGP in 2011.

The operator calls OSGP "an open, generic, scalable and independent Internet of Things platform." The layered platform acts as a connecting link between Web applications like FlexOVL and smart devices. To operate it, the user (the municipality) employs one or more applications, such as FlexOVL, to monitor and control devices (streetlamps). The applications connect to the platform via several Web services that are divided into functional domains—for instance, public lighting or smart metering.

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