Britain’s first ‘smart’ streetlights have been installed in Essex offering the potential to monitor pollution, create Wi-Fi hotspots and even guide driverless vehicles.
The six streetlight trial is likely to result in thousands of the high-tech lights rolling out across the county.
Cllr Kevin Bentley, Deputy Leader of Essex County Council, said: “We are taking advantage of new technology to create the potential for Smart Cities which will use technology to improve the quality of life for our residents.
“New technology allows us to offer residents more, for less, and supports our ambition to embrace digital to give our residents and businesses the quality of life and work they aspire to.
“If the trial is successful, the options for these ‘smart’ streetlights are almost limitless going forward.
"It is part of an innovative project at Essex County Council using new technology to allow us to create Smart Places along our road network, Smart Movement within our transport network and Smart Lives to help support those who need adult social care."
The new lights include an extra “universal sensor” socket built into lamp at the top of the pole.
This will allow attachment of devices such as sensors to collect data on air quality, traffic movements and pedestrian numbers.
In future, the attachments could potentially offer a number of other features using the power supply from the streetlight.
Cllr Ian Grundy, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Highways, explained saying: “We can be flexible and agile in adapting the devices for future needs – these could include providing Wi-Fi hotspots along key routes and monitoring pollution levels in real-time.
“There could even be potential links to navigation for driverless cars to help them avoid traffic jams, smart traffic signals and even the ability to monitor the condition of roads and pavements.”
Currently, Essex Highways is using the plug sockets on the trial streetlights to remotely adjust the brightness of the lantern.
DigiStreet lanterns are the latest version of Philips’ LED streetlights. The new ‘smart’ streetlights also have the latest LED technology which means less electricity is needed.
Over the past two years, Essex Highways engineers have installed more than 10,000 energy-saving LED streetlights across the county.
Essex County Council has committed funding to upgrade another 32,000 streetlights to LED lamps in a bid to save millions of pounds in energy and maintenance costs.