It all started with our phones, and after that all hell broke loose: intelligent this, smart that, clever something else, and so on. We must definitely get that second bachelor’s degree or we’ll be the laughing stock of banana peels at this rate.
The next inanimate objects to get under the spotlight (it’s a pun, wait for it) are the lamp posts we so casually ignore every day. German automotive supplier Continental has taken an interest in these vertical poles of light and wants to turn them into a smart (sigh), interconnected grid that can stand in for Christmas decorations as well, or something.
The idea was presented at the World Congress on Intelligent (sigh) Transportation Systems in Bordeaux, France, and relies on the Light Emitting Diode we’ve come to know and love so much. Not only does it eat up a lot less energy than a conventional bulb but it also lasts longer, and because they’re installed in matrixes, it’s highly unlikely they will all break at once.
Wait a minute, we already have LED lamp posts, so there has to be something more about the ones Continental is proposing, otherwise they would have made a fool of themselves at that congress. And indeed there is. Their system uses a small module capable of running diagnostics and even alerting the repair crew when maintenance work is needed.
But the LEDs will want to take better advantage of the fact that they can communicate with each other and the environment, and do more about it. Things like detecting pedestrians trying to cross and lighting up the zebra so that the motorists have better visibility. Or sense an approaching cyclist and light up their path as they’ve forgotten their bicycle light at home again (they always do). Or it could turn green, like those systems in large parking lots, to signal a vacant space.
Continental isn’t forgetting about cars, so it imagines the lamp posts turning into charging stations for EVs. They could also act as relays and send relevant information to the nearby cars, something like the traffic situation ahead, roads under construction, you name it.
Turning the mundane lamp posts into veritable information hubs sounds like the stuff of Science Fiction right now, and that’s simply because there are so friggin’ many of them and replacing them all would cost a fortune and would take a generation. But that doesn’t mean that, if the idea is sound, we shouldn’t try it.