More than 10.8 million smart poles to be installed by 2030

smart poles
Sheila Zabeu -

March 28, 2023

Large urban centres, such as the metropolis of São Paulo in Brazil, live a tragic scenario with tangles of wires and cables that generate interruptions in the provision of public services, such as energy, telephone and Internet access, in addition to offering risks to the population and financial losses to companies and citizens. Not to mention the urban visual pollution, which makes the urban landscape look like a big rat’s nest.

To limit ourselves to the case of São Paulo, the city government had plans to bury around 52 kilometres of electricity wires and telephone and TV service cables and remove more than 2,000 poles in the capital by 2018. After almost five years and with little or no result in practice, the public management and companies involved have stated that a new schedule is being developed.

Wire and cable infrastructures are an essential part of large urban centres, so they cannot be overlooked in urban projects in general and smart cities in particular. However, the ageing concept of smart cities fails to deliver on its promises. “New approaches are needed in the form of more scalable, holistic and effective solutions to transform smart urban infrastructure and accelerate its deployment,” says Dominique Bonte, vice president of markets and verticals at ABI Research.

Smart Poles are multifunctional aggregation points for smart urban infrastructure, encompassing connected lighting and utility points. They can become a cost-effective, scalable and modular framework for deploying the full spectrum of smart urban infrastructure, ranging from small 5G cells and Wi-Fi access points to surveillance and traffic cameras, signage and information display, air quality monitoring solutions, flooding hotspots and loading and unloading sites.

The main technology providers for smart poles are Ubicquia, Verizon, Huawei, Signify, Nokia/LuxTurrim5G and Ekin Smart City Solutions.

According to a survey by ABI Research, investments in smart pole technologies globally will grow from $10.8 billion in 2022 to more than $132 billion in 2030. More than 10.8 million smart poles will be installed by 2030.

This figure also includes investments in smart corridors, which encompass various technologies such as cooperative adaptive traffic lights and road infrastructure that will enable autonomous driving, optimise traffic flow, improve road safety and facilitate sustainable transport over longer distances. Key government smart corridor initiatives are the European Union’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF2) programme to fund and deploy 5G corridors and the United States’ Bipartisan Infrastructure Act (BIL).

Other recent examples

Last February, Kaohsiung, the largest port city in Taiwan, announced a US$1.5 million smart pole project. The solution uses Iveda’s Utilus Smart Pole technology, which brings together video surveillance, Artificial Intelligence-based video analytics, smart power system and location-based trackers and smart sensors on a centralized platform.

Utilus’ multifunctional and smart poles will help the city of Kaohsiung overcome various urban challenges, such as improving parking and traffic management, facilitating electric car charging and even detecting and notifying authorities about flooding, all through real-time alerts.

Kaohsiung’s lampposts will be able to communicate with each other, establishing a distributed video surveillance network. They will also help in the remote management of equipment such as water and electricity meters.

The Utilus platform consists of a wireless mesh communication network with WiFi, 4G and 5G capabilities, plus other wireless protocols as required. It also includes a battery system for energy storage that ensures continuity of operations. The city will be able to extend the installation as required by adding AI-enabled cameras, environmental and traffic sensors. The smart poles will also offer the city of Kaohsiung monetisation opportunities, with dissemination of advertising messages, for example.

Another city that has already adopted the concept of smart poles is Seoul, in a project that brings together street lighting systems, traffic lights, environmental sensors, step counters, smartphone chargers, Wi-Fi access points and closed circuit TV. The poles are customized with specific functions for the needs of each region of the city. The idea is also to use drones and electric vehicles to detect parking violations, monitor potential disasters and assist in emergency rescue efforts. The drones will be recharged on top of the poles.

Cora Glables, a city near Miami in the States, is also adopting smart poles with Artificial Intelligence capabilities that present live video and real-time analytics to the city’s Intelligence and Emergency Operations Centres. The solution is integrated with the AI platform to, from sensor data, provide information to public management and citizens. The poles incorporate Wi-Fi and 5G connections, as well as traffic systems, environmental, traffic and safety sensors.

The European Union, meanwhile, wants to upgrade 10 million smart streetlamps to be powered by solar energy and capable of providing various services to citizens in cities across the region. There are between 60 and 90 million lampposts in European cities, 75% of which are more than 25 years old. They represent between 20% and 50% of a city’s energy bill; collectively, the annual energy cost of street lighting reaches €3 billion. And inaction in this area results in a lost energy saving opportunity of €200 million a week.

“The main driver for smart pole deployments is the densification of networks in the form of 5G and future 6G small cells and the use of mmWave radio spectrum. The telecoms ecosystem is expected to at least partially fund smart city features embedded in smart poles,” Bonte explains.

The main obstacles of smart pole projects have to do with shared ownership and management of the assets, priorities of public officials, privacy concerns about the data generated by the sensors, and lack of awareness of the benefits to cities with monetization opportunities in the form of cost savings and advertising revenues, for example.