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Digital Subscriptions > Cities Today > July 2018 > Why San Diego is leading the way with connectivity

Why San Diego is leading the way with connectivity

David Graham, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, City of San Diego spoke to Jonathan Andrews about his passion for people–not technology–and the importance of upgrading existing infrastructure with connectivity
David Graham, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, City of San Diego
Photo: Candice Graham

What has driven San Diego into becoming one of the leading US cities for smart lighting?

San Diego suffered from under investment in infrastructure for many years. The last couple of mayors have really righted the financial ship but the damage had been done when it came to infrastructure throughout the city. As we looked at replacing and improving infrastructure, the key was how to use connected technology.

Since we were going to be investing and creating a more efficient infrastructure, we asked ourselves how could we also use communications and connectivity to have world-class infrastructure to help us achieve more goals than just the purpose for which the infrastructure was intended. That brings us to another big thing for San Diego which is our focus on sustainability and climate action. If you take the problem of under investment in infrastructure, the need to replace those assets, and a key focus on sustainability, street lighting is a perfect place to accomplish many of those goals and leapfrog traditional technologies around illumination.

We looked at the question of how to create a more efficient street lighting network. That clearly leads to LEDs but if you are going to replace the bulbs it also makes sense to have those lights connected–wirelessly in our case–to each other and communicate data to the cloud and allow for us to control those lights– the brightness and when they are on and off. We have a great partnership with San Diego Gas and Electric [GE] around sustainability goals. Here we found we could work with them to get a meter grade–if we had every single one of those poles metered and connected through our communications network. That led us to standing up a few thousand of these smart street lights with adapted controls. We knew when they were on and off, how much energy they were using. That’s when GE came to us and said, ‘You now have not just a lighting network but a communications network that has visibility on your streets and roads in these neighbourhoods, what if you could do much more than just manage a light network, what if those could also be sensors that could help you solve issues around parking, pedestrian safety and a whole host of other opportunities?’

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