On a roll with new smart pole

Local company’s intelligent lamp pole hides a range of high-tech devices

Technolite managing director Michael Chia showcasing a section of the I-Core prototype. PHOTO: TED CHEN

Standing like sentinels over Sentosa's Palawan Beach are two lamp poles that shine a light to a future of smart and safer cities.

They are twice the size of the ones found throughout Singapore, and have hidden compartments to house Internet of Things (IoT) devices and cables.

More than a decade in the making, the idea for these next-generation lamp poles arose from a need for quicker responses to traffic or emergency situations.

When local lighting company Technolite started supplying lamp poles to Orchard Road in 2006, they began to receive requests from government agencies to install additional surveillance equipment to the structures.

"It was a big challenge because the poles are not designed for that," said Mr Michael Chia, 55, managing director of Technolite.

"We had to think about how the structural design of the pole could support the weight of the devices and wind load, and optimise the space within the constraints of the pole dimensions," added Mr Lim Yeow Chong, 55, senior engineer at Technolite.

I-Core in Palawan Beach, Sentosa. PHOTO: TECHNOLITE

Determined to come up with a solution, the 38-employee company invested more than a million dollars developing a lamp pole that would be able to house IoT devices safely and neatly.

The solution? A lamp pole with an internal beam surrounded by hollow compartments. The beam would act as the pole's main support structure. The bottom compartments would be reserved for routers, with cladding that could be easily removed and replaced, while the upper compartments, for sensors and cameras, would have sliding panels.

This design would allow organisations such as government agencies to have their own private and dedicated compartments, and prevent illegal access to and tampering of their devices.

From drawing board to reality

Technolite was convinced that it had a scalable and sustainable product on its hands. The smart pole, known as I-Core, would be made with recyclable aluminium instead of galvanised steel, typically used one-off in traditional lamp posts. But it needed help to build and test its prototype.

"It was very difficult because we are a small company, and most people want something that is already proven," said Mr Chia.

The company reached out to enterprise development agency Enterprise Singapore, which supported it in building the smart lamp post prototype and connected it with Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) to carry out a six-month pilot trial to install two poles in Palawan Beach from the middle of last year.

The trial proved successful, with the prototype collecting data such as light intensity, noise levels and visitor footfall. Public agencies can now harness the pole for street lighting, communication and connectivity, security monitoring and traffic management, among other uses.

SDC has since extended the Palawan Beach trial by three months so that Technolite can add and test digital signage for events and advertisements to the smart poles.

"The trend will be towards digital signage, and we want to be ahead of the curve," said Mr Chia.

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