Thursday, December 25, 2008


Streetlight serenade

Perhaps you live someplace with streetlights that stay on all night. Perhaps they shine in your windows, and that bothers you; perhaps you just wonder about the electricity that’s wasted lighting them when they’re not needed. But, of course, they have to be lit, because one never knows when someone will need them, and... well... they can’t very well have on/off switches, can they?

Ah. Yes, they can. The village of Dörentrup, Germany, for example, has set up a system wherein people can send text messages to a town telephone number, and the messages contain codes to switch on the lights for specific streets. After a short time, the lights will switch off again.

It sounds like a very cool system. A simple extension would allow a user to specify a longer time for the lights to stay on than the current 15 minutes (the radio report I heard on Tuesday was longer than the video in the link, and included a woman who went out for a late-night run, being sure to have her phone with her in case the lights should switch off before she’d finished and she’d have to stop and turn them on again).

The good part is that the codes are printed on signs on the lampposts, so you don’t have to know them offhand (though you certainly might, for ones you commonly use, and you can also look them up online). I presume the phone number is also printed on the signs, or it could be.

The bad part is that you have to register your phone with the system. That means that visitors passing through the village can’t activate the lights. That might not be a problem in Dörentrup, where there aren’t likely to be many people “passing through” after 9 P.M., but larger towns and cities might have to have an easy way for a visitor to work things.

This sounds like a great idea that could save a lot of energy and money. And, of course, it’s a cool (and fairly simple) use of technology.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This idea seems to come from the age-old (I don't really know how old) PCL (Pilot Controlled Lighting) system, typically found at untowered fields. This works by sending a certain number of clicks on the predefined frequency (usually the same as UNICOM or CTAF), which turns the lights on for 15 minutes.

It's a clever idea.