Talking Street Lamps

Problem: Did you know, streetlights in Europe generate greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 20 million cars (40 million tons of CO2 annually). At $13 billion, it accounts for more than 40% of the government’s energy bill.

While looking down from a flight, Dutch designer, Chintan Shah, who at the time was a student at Delft University of Technology, wondered how GHG emissions can be reduced from street lighting (Carrington, 2013).

Technology: Smart Street Lighting

Shah developed a lighting solution that uses wireless sensors. The on-demand lighting system only lights up the street when a person, bicycle or car is present. The intelligent system dims the rest of the time. It can also differentiate between people and smaller animals so as to avoid lighting up unnecessarily (Carrington, 2013).

Shah first deployed this technology at the Delft university where he won a campus competition. This was then replicated in two cities in Holland and one in Ireland (Carrington, 2013).

Under the brand name, Tvilight, Shah’s aim is to conserve energy.  The newly designed street lighting system can help reduce CO2 emissions by 80%. Furthermore, it can reduce maintenance cost by 50% due to an integrated wireless sensor that sends out an alert to the central control center when it’s time for the lamp to be serviced (Carrington, 2013).

Currently, the team at Tvilight is working to make the system more human so it can change color and create different designs (Carrington, 2013).


  1. City council
  2. Traffic control centers
  3. Neighborhood citizen groups
  4. University students (Tech/Engineering students)


To implement this intelligent lighting system in a new city, Tvilight would need to:

Step 1: First, put forth a proposal to the Mayor and City Council of the identified city

Step 2: Once the proposal is accepted, it would need to meet with the head of the traffic control centre to jointly implement the system

Step 3: Simultaneously, it would need to conduct meetings with the selected neighborhood citizen groups to help them understand the new street lighting system

Step 4: It would need to partner with local universities so as to get tech/engineering students to help spread awareness about the new system

Step 5: It would need to monitor the system and community feedback so as to enhance the intelligent street lighting experience


Carrington, Daisy (2013), ‘Tvilight: The ‘talking’ streetlamp that will lighten your heart (but not your wallet)’,, sourced from on November 25, 2017


4 thoughts on “Talking Street Lamps

  1. This is a great use of what I imagine is something similar to motion sensor technology! Based on the description, it appears as though this would be easy to deploy in situations where there is less population density and there are higher chances when the street is completely empty and there is a need to shut off the lights.

    I wonder what the application of a such a technology would be in busier areas. Will the technology handle the stress of rapid switching? To visualize this, imagine a room with a such a motion sensor. If 1 person enters and leaves a room every 2 hours, then the technology will work well. But if there is someone constantly entering and leaving the room every 15 minutes, the sensor will have to switch on and off at that speed. At a larger scale, I feel this may stress the sensor and result in quicker failure.

    Unless they use programmable logic that allows the sensor itself to be smart in the way it turns the light on and off as per the human traffic frequency and density on the street.


  2. Looks like an interesting technology – some of my concerns will be:
    a. cost to implement
    b. lot of times (atleast in the US) utility owns street lights – utilities may not see this in-line with their business models and would not want to incur upfront cost, knowing their future revenue streams will be affected
    c. in busy cities this may not be effective as there will always be a constant movement of traffic and people
    d. while for small cities dim/dark lighting can lead to increasing safety and theft issue


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