GE Plans a Sale as San Diego Smart City Project Nears Completion

In another month or two, a General Electric (NYSE: GE) subsidiary is expected to complete the installation of an intelligent lighting system in San Diego that’s been billed as “the world’s largest municipal Internet of Things.”

The Boston-based subsidiary, Current by GE, began work earlier this year for the city of San Diego on a $30.3 million project to replace 14,000 streetlights with energy-efficient LED lamps. The sensor-laden streetlights will be linked to a wireless network that includes 3,200 smart sensor nodes (different hardware mounted on some of the same light poles), and are intended to create an “Intelligent Internet of Things” (IoT) network called CityIQ that will blanket 160 square miles—or almost half of the city’s 325 square miles. Using the wireless network, municipal operators can remotely monitor LED performance and energy consumption, and control the brightness of streetlights.

“It allows us to re-purpose a city’s streetlight infrastructure into a smart city platform,” said Austin Ashe, who has been overseeing the effort as general manager of intelligent cities for Current. “It allows us to solve some of a city’s biggest challenges with software.”

When completed, Ashe claimed the city of San Diego will have the largest IoT multi-sensor platform installation in the world. By using LED lighting, the system also is projected to reduce the city’s energy costs by 60 percent, or $2.5 million a year. Project financing by GE Capital was structured in a way so the energy savings more than covers the city’s amortized cost, according to Ashe.

Each sensor-laden streetlight is designed to monitor an oval area of roughly 120 by 180 feet, collecting data on street parking, traffic, pedestrians (including street crossings), and temperature and other environmental conditions.

“We like to think of it as a smartphone on a light pole,” Ashe said.

Streetlight (Current by GE image used with permission)

A sensor-laden streetlight in San Diego (Current by GE image used with permission)

Current by GE has used San Diego as a shining example of how U.S. communities can use IoT technology to create more “intelligent cities.” By leveraging its work in San Diego, the GE subsidiary has landed similar projects in Atlanta; Portland, OR; Farmers Branch, TX; and Schenectady, NY.

San Diego city officials initially plan to … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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