(Originally published in the Detroit Free Press, October 29, 2011)
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By Zlati Meyer
With a blast of the U2 song "Beautiful Day" Friday morning, Farmington Hills became home to the first wireless Intellistreet light-pole system in the world -- a network of street lamps that can feature everything from hidden speakers to electronic signs to water-level monitors.
Behind the new urban-communication device is Farmington Hills' Illuminating Concepts. The company office and Café Cortina sit on the strip of 10 Mile east of Orchard Lake, where the city's eight new poles are. This model boasts dimmable lights and a smaller flashing notification light, though not the eye-catching digital signage option.
According to Illuminating Concepts, the most comprehensive poles also can direct traffic, advertise local events and show pictures of missing children on the digital screens; help with crowd control; sense rising water levels as well as chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive agents; enable a passerby to talk with a public-safety officer in an emergency and aid homeland security officials with video and audio alerts and data acquisition.
The energy savings is 50%-70% for the Intellistreet lamp, which can be changed to dimmer settings. However, additional power is needed for the ones that include electronic signs.
Company President and creative director Ron Harwood, who got the idea for Intellistreet working at Disney and Universal parks, said it will "make us feel not only safer, but happier."
The base price for an Intellistreet pole is $3,000.
Farmington Hills, for example, spent $30,000 and used a U.S. Department of Energy grant to cover the rest, according to Mayor Jerry Ellis.
He said this project "demonstrates how business and government can work together for economic, environmental and social benefits."
The poles can be controlled from a central location or by iPad or phone, wireless systems that are protected from hackers with double encryption, said Jeff Stribbell, Illuminating Concepts' director of business development, who demonstrated the technology.
Illuminating Concepts has installed similar systems at Greenfield Village in Dearborn and Branson Landing in Branson, Mo.