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September 4, 2020

Streetlight Poles: The Foundation of a New Economy

As economies across the globe adjust to new financial and social norms, there is one economy that is waiting to happen around the humble lamp post, we call this the "Pole Economy". Let's start with a quick trivia question. What is the largest piece of real estate that exists for cities around the world? You may think it is housing, sidewalks, fire hydrants, or even public parks. But no, the largest consistent piece of real estate owned by cities globally is the streetlight pole.

If you think back to any city, town, country, or region you have visited, you may recall that streetlight poles are everywhere. In fact, these poles are so expansive that we do not even notice them anymore. But here at CIMCON, we know these poles are capable of so much more than providing lighting to cities - they are the key to enabling the future of "smart cities" and driving a whole new economy that we call the "Pole Economy". Let's see what needs to happen to open up this economy.

For the last decade, CIMCON has worked with cities across the globe and identified several obstacles that come in the way of opening up the pole economy. This begins with an easy way to power devices and the ability to meter them, and that extends to the need for a secure communication network that can transmit the data back into the cloud after some edge processing. Another key aspect is permitting since access to the pole is generally controlled through attachment agreements and associated fees.

The good news is that there is a simple solution to all these problems. CIMCON's "NearSky" smart city edge platform provides the 3Ps: Power, Permitting and Processing all in a single device that removes the friction and opens up the Pole Economy. In a nutshell, the NearSky platform helps improve operational and financial performance for cities, while providing an easy way for technology and service providers of varying sizes to take advantage of IoT opportunities.

Next let's see who all can benefit from this economy

Who Benefits from the Pole Economy?



Cities and Utilities

As the owners of the streetlight pole, cities and utilities have numerous opportunities to capitalize on the precious piece of vertical real estate beyond the provision of lighting. First, unlike any other structure, the pole provides the space and power needed to install and operate 5G towers, EV charging stations, electronic displays and billboards, and more. Cities and utilities benefit from both renting the space on the pole and charging for the electricity consumed by these devices to provide services such as internet connections, digital advertisements, etc. However, unlike the metered electricity provided to homes, the streetlight pole generally does not have metered power. CIMCON's NearSky platform solves this problem by providing utility grade meters that are capable of measuring AC output and the energy consumed by additional sensors connected to the NearSky 360 device. Dashboards available in the NearSky platform enable cities and utilities to appropriately charge for the power consumed. In addition, the data connectivity afforded through the NearSky platform through multiple backhaul options such as an Ethernet connection, an LTE module or by utilizing an existing mesh smart lighting network, provide an additional revenue stream for streetlight pole owners.

By implementing the NearSky platform with a 7-pin NEMA connector device, cities mitigate the need for special permitting and simplify a smart city installation and application deployment as the need to drill into and modify the streetlight pole to tap into the power supply is removed. This is a significant saving for a city as it removes the cost of a licensed electrician to tap into the power supply.

The NearSky platform further benefits cities and utilities by providing an onboard processor in the NearSky 360 device that provides data and access for 3rd party developers to create innovative applications. By providing a data transport service where smart city solution data is stored, enriched and visualized for all sensors integrated into the platform, the NearSky platform simplifies operations while providing the ability for the city to monetize the data coming through the NearSky platform. Cities are able to charge developers and other 3rd parties such as retailers and insurance companies for access to data coming from devices such as cameras, road condition and air quality sensors, which would otherwise be unavailable. This data access not only results in new revenue streams for cities, but creates a whole new generation of app developers that can start solving city problems, thereby creating a mobile app economy similar to what Apple's App Store has created.

In addition to cities and utilities, as mentioned above, the opportunities made available by CIMCON's NearSky platform in the creation of the pole economy are numerous. As the prevalence of smart cities expands across the globe, there are many companies and providers that will benefit from the pole economy. Some of these include the following:

Device providers such as camera and air quality sensor manufacturers will benefit from initial equipment sales as well as future smart city expansion, replacement and upgraded sales.



Network companies will initially benefit from cities needing to transport ever increasing amounts of data into the cloud and make it available for others; with opportunities increasing as 5G takes hold and requires increased capacity and bandwidth. In the future, network management and security services, native applications or other services can provide increased revenue opportunities as network providers have a clear real-time insight into consumers location and data usage, as well as having an existing marketing and distribution channel not had by other providers. NetworkCompanies@2x-1


App providers are provided with endless opportunities to create innovative new applications that help cities manage resources and increase communication between city governments and residents by utilizing the data coming from devices. The ultimate benefit to app developers is the ability to resell these applications to cities and ancillary service providers in the global marketplace. For example, an app developer could create an application that uses people counting data to monitor and alert a city of residents' failure to follow social distancing guidelines. Retailers could be provided with apps to analyze foot traffic data in a downtown area to make a more informed decision about planning their next outlet or promotional program. Insurance companies can use city data to determine premiums for businesses and consumers. AppDevelopers@2x-1


Data analysts will play an increasingly critical role in the development of the smart city and have vast opportunities to benefit from the pole economy. As cities gather geospatial data, traffic data, environmental data and more from the devices on or near the streetlight pole they will need a way to translate this data coming from disparate sources into actionable plans. Using AI, machine learning and various analytics tools, data analysts will be able to capitalize on providing cities with the predictive analytics to enable city planners to have the information necessary to make informed policy and program decisions. DataAnalysts@2x-1


System integrators are the intermediaries between cities and solution providers, bringing together both parties to leverage a city's existing infrastructure with a solution provider's technology in a streamlined fashion. Systems integrators will benefit from the pole economy by seeking out, consulting on and implementing innovative new solutions in the smart city environment. SystemIntegrators@2x-1


Financial institutions will benefit from the ability to provide funds to and receive significant returns from the many parties involved in the development of the smart city. From helping solution providers with the capital needed to build products and services to funding cities acquisition of new technology and building infrastructure, financial institutions will play a critical role. FinancialInstitutions@2x-1


Urban service providers such as safety, security, lighting, compliance, electronic signage, transportation and more will benefit from having access to the infrastructure and data available via the streetlight pole to provide new solutions and services to the cities.      UrbanServiceProviders@2x-1


The future is bright as more cities, utilities and service providers embrace the pole economy. We estimate that each streetlight pole can generate between $1,000 and $3,000 a year in revenue from services. Given that there are approximately 400 million streetlights in the world, this economy would be worth $40B to $120B each year even at 10% penetration rate. CIMCON's NearSky platform is uniquely qualified to drive the pole economy. 

Written by: Anil Agrawal
Date: September 4, 2020

For more information on CIMCON Lighting products, contact sales@cimconlighting.com