What Exactly Are These 'Smart Poles' Going Up Around Australia?

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Roll out of Australia's biggest "smart pole" installation has begun across Newcastle, with up to 50 smart city tech poles to be erected around the inner city. With 300 more due to be installed over the next few years, here's all the info on what the poles will actually do, and where they will be going.

As well as offering WiFi connectivity, the smart poles boast energy-saving LED lighting that can be dimmed by remote control, audio speakers for public announcements and cameras for real-time traffic analysis.

"At the end of the roll-out in around two years, this installation will be the biggest and most functional smart lighting installation in Australia," Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said. "We're excited about the smart poles because they're the first real tech hardware installed as part of the smart city strategy we have just released for public comment."

Nelmes says this is just the beginning of a new era - in which we'll see sensor-based smart lighting and other technology help make the city run more efficiently and provide valuable data insights for businesses, advanced manufacturers and entrepreneurial industries.

Newcastle City Council Interim CEO Jeremy Bath said the new smart poles would offer the city flexibility as its broader plan unfolded.

"Our poles are a modular system that can be easily adapted to different requirements and incorporate the latest communication and energy-saving lighting technologies," he said. "All the lighting can be controlled on a desktop on google maps and you can dim them in the middle of the night to save energy. We'll be able to add environmental sensors, smart parking systems and electrical-vehicle charging stations later on."

Other smart pole installations around Australia include Darling Harbour (set to get 41 poles with remote controlled colour-changing lights, CCTV, speakers and WiFi), Victoria Square Adelaide (getting 10 poles for lighting purposes), Robina Shopping Centre on the Gold Coast (getting nine multifunctional poles with lighting, speakers, projection, WiFi and CCTV) and The University of Wollongong (scoring seven multifunction poles with street lighting, CCTV integration and banner arms).



    So they are installing CCTV and to sell it to the public as a good idea they are offering "free wifi" with your data being sold to help "provide valuable data insights for businesses, advanced manufacturers and entrepreneurial industries".

      Don't worry, with how congested the wifi will probably be, you won't get a chance to give them much personal data in your allotted 30minutes/50MB (or what ever other low amount they give you) per day.

        Always puzzles me why public WIFI has such restrictions. When i was in europe all the public free wifi over there is free and unlimited. Granted the speeds are not always good but there are no time limits or data limits.

    There was an idea for something similar in Vancouver about 5 years ago. Seemed a good idea then, still seems a good idea today.

    You have light poles every ~20 meters, and the whole pole part going up is largely wasted, so what can they be used for that's practical? By their nature they are going to follow NBN lines, so its not a hard job to link and transmitters into that and provide universal wifi/internet access.

    If Newcastle follows through with this, it will be interesting to see how far you can take it.

    Awesome! Hackable streetlights with speakers!
    CTOS here we come.

    Fuck the smart lights, we need smart traffic lights. So sick of sitting at an intersection at the red light when there's no one traveling on the cross road. Europe has them, why not us.

      Most Ausie cities already have them. At least they do in my city. Ever noticed those rectangles cut into the road at lights? Thats the vehicle sensors. What bugs me are people who sit back 5 meters from the lights and wonder why the lights don't change.

      Last edited 13/06/17 4:25 pm

        Sadly they're certainly not everywhere. I also suspect they're overridden at set times based on expected traffic flow. There are a few streets near me that I'm sure have sensors but if you're driving during the day they ignore them and just run a standard cycle. At midnight though they work like a charm.

        ps: Getting errors when trying to post again. Gotta logout and back in :(

          You are 100% correct on this. I used to do Traffic Light maintenance 10 years ago and that is exactly what happens. Those ugly grey boxes on the side of the road near the lights is what controls them. Little EEPROM chips. They run on A Phase and B Phase. A Phase is run generally during peak hours (Which are determined by site installation) and then B Phase when not busy / late at night when the sensors in the ground will affect how the lights change.

          That's why late at night, the lights will generally stay green in the two most common throughway's (Obviously meaning without causing an incident).

          Want to know what is extremely funny about this. Those grey containers and all the equipment inside are crazy expensive. Talking anywhere from 10 to 25k... It could all be run from a small computer, so much cheaper...

          Also, if there are train tracks that run across the intersection, they are also controlled by the box on the side of the road. There is generally a preset timer on how long the boom gates can be down for as well. When I was maintaining these, it was roughly 30-40 seconds.

          Last edited 14/06/17 3:03 pm

            Thanks for that info. Good stuff.

            I guess (hope) the equipment is more reliable and robust than a cheaper alternative. I don't mind the idea of it costing more if it lasts 10 times longer.

        Good, but would be better if a camera saw you driving, so could change before you stop.

          What is it about peoples obsessions with cameras. Cameras are unreliable at detecting all types of vehicles and are ridiculously more expensive than a simple metal sensor in the ground.

          FYI, again some intersections already have this as well. They have two sensors, one close at the lights and one far back from the lights. The second sensor is also used to determine if traffic is backing up heaps which keeps the lights green longer for that direction.

          Last edited 15/06/17 11:22 am

        They're the sensors for speed cameras and red light cameras and not sensors that work out if there's traffic coming from the cross road. You can sit at lights for no reason at all at times and that sucks.

          The sensors cut into the road are just for the lights, but they certainly aren't smart. Red light cameras just use optical sensors placed near the cameras themselves. Smart traffic lights would be ones that can see the traffic coming from any direction and switch the light to green if there is no other traffic needing to cross the intersection, for example.

    I live in Newcastle and applaud this move. Granted they may not live up to the marketing, but even without the wifi, cameras and speakers, just having smart lights that reduce energy consumption through only being active when necessary is a positive thing. Plus a reduction in light pollution would be a pleasant bonus.

      I came across this news article and I think this is a very innovative effort in making Newcastle and the rest of NSW, a real smart city. I wonder how I can get in touch with the manufacturer /supplier/contractor of this system.

    I love the idea of having speakers. "We have control! We keep you safe! We are your hope!"

    A Big Brother bird perch. Why no solar panels?

      I have seen some great light poles in Hawaii, they had a small solar panel and a small wind turbine on top to charge the light's batteries.

        Imagine all the broken turbines they wouldn't bother replacing.

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