In the aftermath of an earthquake, cell coverage should be the least of someone’s worries. In order to keep people connected in the event of a natural disaster, Los Angeles is erecting smart street lamps capable of providing additional cell service if the worst happens.
Philips teamed up with the communication technology provider Ericsson to design the innovative SmartPoles and equip them with 4G LTE wireless technology. A fiber link connects each lamp to the network to help maintain a steady connection. Because the poles are located closer to the streets and sidewalks than the central cell towers are, they'll be able to provide more coverage to denser parts of the city.
In addition to the citywide broadband boost, the SmartPoles are also meant to act as an emergency cellular network in the case of a major earthquake or similar disaster. Because traditional cell towers are centralized, the loss of power in just one of them can knock out coverage for a wide area. Even if cell towers do survive such a catastrophe, networks can become easily bogged down by everyone trying to connect with each other at once. The high-tech street lamps provide backup coverage while spreading out the network between hundreds of locations, thus softening the impact if one area is disproportionately affected.
The city will start by installing 100 of the SmartPoles with plans to bring the total up to 500 in the next five years. The increased coverage is coming just in time: according to an Ericsson Mobility Report cell traffic is expected to be nine times what it is today by 2020.