GPS technology is built into so very many devices these days. We’ve come to expect a GPS device in our phones and tablets. Most new cars come equipped with an in-dash GPS device. Jewelry specific to fitness featuring GPS devices are being worn by athletes all over the world, and some team shirts also feature a tiny GPS. Business owners looking to protect their investments, like heavy equipment stored on the job site on flatbed trailers, rely on hidden GPS devices to track their machinery in case of theft.
Numerous research groups use GPS as well, whether wildlife tracking, mapping diseased trees to prevent the infestation of healthy trees, and even people mapping graveyards so loved ones can easily locate the grave sites of deceased family members.
Street Lamp GPS
Another surprising use for GPS you might not know about: tracking street lamps. Chennai, India is the latest to give this use for GPS technology a try, with street lamps featuring GPS being installed along Grand Southern Trunk (GST) Road in Tambaram, Channai. But what use is a GPS device installed in a street light?
The GPS company who sells the devices is in charge of monitoring the condition of the street lamps. They are watching for faulty or damaged lights, and are responsible for keeping an eye on the city’s 246 street lights that run in the median of GST Road. They were put in place in late August, with a dedication held September 1. With a GPS company keeping an eye on the condition of the lights, that means a quicker response time in the event a bulb burns out, keeping the street safe at night.
More Than Safety
The lights bring another benefit as well — they consume much less energy. According to municipal chairman M. Karikalan, the new lights — made of metal halide — only use 210 watts. The old lights, which were sodium vapor, consumed 250 watts. This adds up to big savings for the 3.75 meter-long stretch of road, with the new lights installed between Tambaram Sanatorium and Irumbuliyur.
Of course, they didn’t just jump right in to the new light style. Before implementing the new lights, officials tested lux (level of illumination), luminosity, traffic and road patterns, and other considerations to ensure it was the right idea.
The New System
So what is the new system like? These new lights are programmed to turn on at 6pm and off again at 5:30am. Between the hours of 11pm and 4am, when traffic is at its lightest, the lights will dim to conserve even more energy. The new posts are composed of galvanized iron instead of just a galvanized iron coating like the old posts, and they will be maintained for a year by the contractor responsible for installing them.
These new posts are heavy duty, able to withstand strong gusts of wind. They will also absorb the shocks that affect the poles when a car crashes into it, unlike the old poles that would bend or even break due to a collision. The state and the municipality both split the bill for the project.
Not The First
Tambaram isn’t the first municipality in India to give GPS street lights a try. In 2010, the city of Thiruvananthapuram was actually the first to install street lights with built-in GPS device. Just like the Tambaram lights, a company monitors the lights for any problems. 220 GPS-enabled lights were installed along 42km of Thiruvananthapuram’s roads, installed by the Thiruvananthapuram Road Development Company Limited (TRDCL).
Over in Nova Scotia, Canada, LED Roadway Lighting began testing in 2010 on GPS-enabled LED street light switches, according to a press release. The company’s executive vice president, Darren Zwicker, said, “It could replace existing automatic light switching by photocell.” These lights, once shipped to their destination, recognize exactly where they are in the world and automatically determine the sunrise and sunset times specific to that area, which allow the lights to turn on and off automatically without having to program them prior to use.
What About The US?
A Florida company is working on their own GPS light controllers, and creator and owner Mike Gookin says, “We have the most state of the art outdoor light controller ever made.” You screw the GPS device to the top of the just about any street light, and it turns it on and off depending on the time of day. He says that his device is better than the usual sensors cities rely on to do the same job, with his GPS version lasting up to 15 years longer than the typical sensor style.
“The lens gets dirty over time, becomes very inefficient in a short period,” said Gookin. “Ours has a GPS chip so it knows when and where it is.”Google+