Smart City initiative to enter new stage

20 more light poles are scheduled to be equipped with LED lights on Monday
Schenectady Smart City Advisory Commission Chairman Mark Little talks about the program in 2016.
Schenectady Smart City Advisory Commission Chairman Mark Little talks about the program in 2016.

SCHENECTADY — Schenectady’s Smart City Initiative is progressing, with an implementation plan submitted last week and more LED lights scheduled to be installed on Monday.

National Grid Spokesman Nate Stone said the utility will begin to install LED lights in 20 light poles located along two blocks of Union Street, between North College Street and Washington Avenue.

Stone referred to the deployment as “a test run,” to see how LED lights will be installed in approximately 4,200 streetlights throughout the city.

The lights being installed will have two different color temperatures — 10 lights of each color — according to Stone.

The light poles will also be equipped with networked lighting controls, which would allow National Grid to set when the lights turn on and off, or when they should be dimmed.

Stone said the plan is to get feedback from residents to see which color they like better.

“It’s like a beta test of the entire project,” Stone said. “It’s being done on a very small scale to see how we’re able to do it — to see how customers react — and then take that feedback and adjust.”

National Grid submitted its 33-page implementation plan for the Smart City upgrade to the state Department of Public Service on Oct. 24. The plan is to deploy all of the technology included in the initiative by June 2021.

The project is being broken up into three phases.

The first will equip all of the city’s streetlights with LED lights, as well as the networked lighting controls. The implementation plan also details which neighborhoods will get the new lights first: Mont Pleasant, Hamilton Hill, Central State Street, Erie Boulevard and Upper Union Street. Installation of the new, more efficient lights and networked lighting controls is expected to be complete in those neighborhoods by March.

The rest of the city is expected to have the new lights and lighting controls by June.

Subsequent phases of the plan include equipping the light poles with Wi-Fi capabilities, as well as the smart city technology. The latter will allow the light poles to be fitted with environmental sensors and other technology related to public safety, health care and the delivery of other public services.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said the hope is to install the different sensors simultaneously, to cut down on overall project costs.

The technology could also allow residents to have access to news and information through the city’s web portal, after they sign on to the WiFi network enabled by the new fixtures. News could include content provided by The Daily Gazette, as well as entertainment information about events going on around the city.

John DeAugustine, president and publisher of The Daily Gazette, is a member of the city’s Smart City Advisory Commission.

Once the light poles fitted with the Smart City sensors, data will be collected and provided to third-party vendors, with the goal of developing new technology to be added to the poles, according to the implementation plan.

McCarthy said the city is still developing protocols as to exactly how they would share that data.

Some of the Smart City technology was previously deployed in areas along State Street, on Jay Street in front of City Hall and on lower Union Street.

The whole effort is considered a demonstration project, Stone said. It is meant to be a model the utility can implement in other parts of its service area.

“We’re going to learn as we go about what’s working, what’s not, so we can have the best system possible,” Stone said.

The demonstration project was approved by the state Department of Public Service in June.

McCarthy has been promoting the benefits of the project for several years, claiming it could save the city between $370,000 and $380,000 annually on electrical costs.

The city has set aside approximately $5 million in its capital budgets over the past three years for the work, with $2 million included in the budget for 2019.

National Grid estimates it will invest approximately $7.6 million over the three-year implementation of the project. A lot of the plans, as well as the costs, could change if obstacles crop up or if adjustments are called for by city officials.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Stone said.

McCarthy admitted the initiative is fluid, but he said he is excited to see progress. He did note that it will be important to get feedback from residents as they continue to roll out the project.

“Some things will work exceptionally well; there’s  some things will probably disappoint people,” McCarthy said. “That’s why we’re looking to sort that out.”

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