Connected Thinking: Wi-Fi Through Urban Lighting

Cristian Tanase - Schréder Hyperion Program Manager
Cristian Tănase
Program Manager - Schréder Hyperion

We live in the age of the internet. Constant connection is the new normal: we work, shop and sometimes even fall in love online. Smart technology can empower and connect communities, improving offline life. This encompasses a wide range of concepts, from keeping residents informed about services via their smartphones, to providing charging points for electric vehicles.

That’s just the start of how WiFi and other technologies connect cities: they also drive innovation, connect businesses and customers, and help make cities #selfieready.
But did you know that street lighting can now play a vital role in providing connectivity?

Schréder created the Shuffle to be much more than an energy-efficient lighting system. It provides a reliable and secure infrastructure for WiFi, meaning sufficient bandwidth is available for a perfect surfing experience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 
It can also be used to deploy small cell 4G or 5G in partnership with telecoms operators. Or both! Up to five modules can be placed in each Shuffle pole, so the only limit is your city’s ambitions.
Whatever options you choose will foster a more vibrant community by connecting citizens, businesses and visitors.

Boosting Local Economies: How a Roman City Gives 5,000 Tourists Free WiFi

A case in point is Trier, Germany’s oldest city. The diverse needs of the population make a clear use case for free WiFi: there’s 20,000 students, 2 million tourists every year, and as across much of Europe, a small part of the population who do not have access to the internet at home.

Free WiFi helps this last group bridge the digital divide. It’s accessible to everyone: Trier provides free WiFi on all bus routes, which has also made public transport more attractive - you can’t do online shopping, chat to friends or finish an essay while driving!

Visitors to Trier city centre can stay connected thanks to Shuffle columns that provide free WiFi

In the area around Hauptmarkt, the main market square, all residents and visitors can connect, for free, for an hour each day. On average more than 5,000 people take advantage of this service daily, with notable spikes when tourists arrive.
Residents can have up to four hours free if they download the city app. No tracking is carried out on the app in compliance with GDPR regulations, avoiding a headache for authorities.
For the tourists, a free internet connection avoids hefty internet roaming charges, leaving them free to share #content about their visit, stay longer, and in turn, boost the local economy.
And there’s another advantage for cities who want to preserve their heritage: as the WiFi access points are integrated in Shuffle columns located throughout the city centre, there was no need to dig up the ground around the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

A New Generation of Citizens: Augmented Reality Apps Through Wi-Fi in Lighting 

Also in Germany, the Bundesgartenschau is a garden festival which lasts 173 days and enables cities to create sensational outdoor spaces and events. Heilbronn was the 2019 host city, drawing 2.3 million visitors to projects including the transformation of the Neckarbogen area into a “district of the future,” complete with almost 300 Shuffle columns. All are fitted with LED lighting and an Owlet IoT control system to adapt lighting for events taking place. Some have WiFi hotspots and others have charging points for electric cars. 

Shuffle columns with WiFI create connected urban spaces in Heilbronn for the community to gather

As the smart city becomes a new reality, residents of the area are early adopters for the fully-connected neighbourhood. Shuffle’s endless adaptability is a springboard for innovation. One particularly creative way to use them is to create site-specific installations. It could be information about sports teams in Shuffles around their stadium, facts about marine life on a seafront walk, or taking visitors on an interactive journey with a touch of immersive smartphone magic. Heilbronn used this technology to create an augmented reality app to guide young people round the exhibits.

From Pandas to Piers: Shuffle Fits Every Environment

Another hit with young visitors is Pairi Daiza, a 65-hectare wildlife park in Belgium. Open all year, it needs to be lit in a way that respects the animals’ needs - including, since August 2019, a pair of baby panda twins. When they explained their specifications, we designed bespoke elements for the Shuffle to ensure the columns blended in seamlessly with the landscape and didn’t disrupt the animal inhabitants who live there.

Shuffle can provide connectivity even in demanding environments such as seafronts and piers

The light poles are also available with a specific coating that makes it adapted to demanding environments such as seafronts and piers, such as Uberlingen’s Seepromande, an elegant boardwalk along the German shores of Lake Constance. Around 50 Shuffle poles light the lakefront, with Wi-Fi installed in several to ensure even coverage. 
While switching to LED lighting will provide energy savings for the town, their main driver is creating a welcoming evening ambiance and adding connectivity. 

How could your city benefit from connectivity through lighting?

We’d love to help you find out. Nobody knows exactly what the future will look like, so adaptability is built into our smart city products. Shuffle modules can be added, replaced or exchanged as requirements evolve. But the pole itself isn’t going anywhere: Shuffle is a sustainable solution, thanks to our dedication to the circular economy. 

About the writer

Cristian joined Schréder Hyperion in 2019 after 13 years at Apple where he worked in a number of roles including the Technology Integration Program, where he collaborated with hardware developers and manufacturers to help build platform differentiating, next generation products. Cristian is now helping move Schréder forward into the connected world of IoT and bridging the gap between technology and applications. Originally from Romania, he spent many years in Ireland and is now living with his wife and two children in Lisbon, Portugal, working from Schreder’s technology excellence centre.

Connect with Cristian on LinkedIn