(Originally published in Crain's Detroit Business, October 28, 2011)
To view or download a PDF of this article, click here.
After Ron Harwood spent more than 10 years inventing a high-tech streetlighting system, is being used publicly on a wireless network for the first time today.
And, appropriately, it's in his own neighborhood.
The city of Farmington Hills switched on the system with a media event, as eight streetlights outfitted with Intellistreets went live along 10 Mile near Orchard Lake Road.
"This is something that, for me, has been a lot of years in the making," said Harwood, principal and creative director for Farmington Hills-based Illuminating Concepts. "Where else to see this than in Farmington Hills?"
With Intellistreets, Harwood brings wireless control to streetlights, combined with the ability to display images or words instantly on an LED display fitted on the light pole, along with music or recorded messages from speakers also embedded in each pole.
The concept has potential for making downtowns livelier with lights and music. But the streetlights also could be used for safety and efficiency, with greater control available for the times that lights are on or off. The system also collects data, such as foot traffic.
Each of the eight light poles is linked to the others and controlled from a central network.
The concept has been used, without the wireless control, at Greenfield Village in Dearborn and destinations such as Branson Landing in Branson, Mo.
In Farmington Hills, the system is being built at a cost of roughly $60,000. Of that, $30,000 comes from a U.S. Department of Energy grant deployed by the city of Farmington Hills. Harwood handled the balance of the cost.
"This is a win-win-win endeavor for Farmington Hills, as far as I'm concerned," Farmington Hills Mayor Jerry Ellis said in a press release. "The city has the opportunity to invest federal grant money locally, we get to be home of the world premier of amazingly advanced technology, and we get to help a company right here in Farmington Hills showcase their innovation to the world."
Harwood said the installation will be used for sales as well. Representatives from the cities of Pittsburgh and Chicago plan to visit soon to see the system in action.
He expects sales of Intellistreets to pick up now that a full system has been installed, noting that several contracts are close to being signed.
Since starting the development of Intellistreets, Harwood has hired an additional 12 full-time employees to bring the company's head count to 50.
Illuminating Concepts has built a name for itself by designing custom LED lighting displays for amusement parks, casinos and other large-scale uses. In 2010 it completed its work as executive lighting designer for the 19 million-square-foot CityCenter project in Las Vegas, where Illuminating Concepts coordinated work with all of the contractors handling lighting projects.
Intellistreets represents the next step for the company, Harwood said.
"It exemplifies our history and the way we solve problems," he said. "This is a product that speaks to our core customer."