IoT Lights Up Streets With Smart City Initiative

San Jose, Calif., has installed intelligent lighting from Owlet, using Digi's Smart City sensors and software to manage light levels and track outages.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 23, 2015

Digi International has sold wired and wireless communication solutions to cities since the 1980s, but during the past five years, the company has been offering what it calls its Smart City Initiative, focused on wireless IoT solutions to manage sensor-derived data regarding a community's infrastructure. The initiative consists of wireless sensor technology and software that a handful of solution providers, such as Owlet, integrate into intelligent digital street-lighting systems. This year, San Jose, Calif., has installed Owlet's network, using Digi technology, on 18,000 sensor-based street lamps located throughout the city.

Digi's Smart City solutions were conceived, developed and deployed independently. However, says Jeff Liebl, Digi's CMO, they collectively fell into a smart-city category that the company found interesting. "It's been more of an organic collection of activities," he states, "and the enthusiasm around them has led to making cities smarter." The company, therefore, is making sensor-based technology that is suited for one or more applications that could be managed via Digi software. Systems initially deployed for a single function, such as street lighting, could be expanded to other applications on the same network.

Owlet's intelligent lighting, using Digi Smart City sensors, has been installed on 18,000 sensor-based street lamps throughout the city of San Jose.
Digi International has been conducting business for three decades, Liebl says, connecting the physical world with the Internet. But it has only recently been working wireless products into its offerings, starting with its Connect WAN cellular routers in 2004, followed by its Wi-Fi sensor-based Connect Wi-Me system the same year.

Since those early projects, Liebl says, "We've worked with connecting city services and systems for over a decade, with products such as our cellular routers for emergency vehicle and public transit communications systems." The company makes Digi Connect N2S-170 Ethernet network connectors for traffic-control systems, as well as custom wireless design solutions for parking meters and XBee wireless modules, which are now embedded in a wide variety of wireless sensors throughout some cities.

Since the smart street-lighting solution was installed in San Jose, Digi has been in conversations with other end users as well. Liebl estimates that 40 percent of a city's energy bill is based on street lighting, one of the most expensive parts of its infrastructure. If intelligence could be built into the lighting via sensors, Digi presumed, the lighting could be adjusted as needed, based on the conditions around each lamp. The company began working with Owlet in approximately 2006 and created its first product design in 2009. Owlet was acquired by Schréder in 2011, two years into the project.

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