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March 2015



With Copenhagen, Denmark, in the lead,

cities across the globe explore the potential

of LED technology to enhance the

quality of urban life

“Cities worldwide are expected to replace 50 million aging

xtures with LEDs over the next three years, with roughly half of

those in Europe. Some are mainly interested in switching from

outmoded technologies to one that uses less energy and can

last for decades.”

From Copenhagen, Diane Cardwell of the

New York Times

reported on a growing network of LED (light-emitting

diode) installations that o cials hope will help the city of

roughly 1.2 million meet its goal of becoming the world’s

rst carbon-neutral capital by 2025. LEDs perform only when

activated, brightening and dimming streetlamps as dictated

by tra c patterns. Their use in the Danish capital is intended

to ease mobility, cut the use of fossil fuels, and save money.

(“Copenhagen Lighting the Way to Greener, More E cient Cities,”




But Ms Cardwell noted that many other cities only want to

take full advantage of the electronics of the LED, which are

more conducive to wireless communication than other types

of lighting. Los Angeles has almost completed the switch

to outdoor LED lighting and is using sensors embedded in

the pavement to detect tra c congestion and synchronise

signals. Ms Cardwell was told by Munish Khetrapal, who helps

lead so-called smart city e orts at Cisco Systems (San Jose,

California), that the company is working with more than 100

cities. In October, Cisco entered into a partnership with another

California rm, Sensity Systems, which makes advanced

networks to help connect and coordinate agencies in cities as

disparate as Chicago; Bangalore, India; and Barcelona, Spain.

The American companies IBM and Philips are also aggressively

pursuing smart city projects, together with lesser-known

companies like California-based Silver Spring Networks, which

provides utilities and cities with networking platforms, software,

and services for critical infrastructure. Ms Cardwell reported that

Silver Spring helped with the design and operation of the tra c

and street lighting project in Copenhagen.


Other cities are also pushing ahead, and hundreds of

pilot programmes and dozens of larger-scale installations

involving LEDs with network control are going forward.

Seeing the demand, technology and software companies are

mobilising to serve the market.

Despite all the activity, Hugh Martin, Sensity’s chief

executive, told Ms Cardwell that no one has yet created a

fully integrated network. But signs are strong that it is on

the way. “The cities are in a race to deploy smart technology,”

Mr Martin said. “And in the business of building a platform

[the lights and sensors capable of connecting to a larger

network] it’s all about how many nodes are out there. It’s a

land grab.”


The repair of the Cuba-USA rupture is under

way. But are the opportunities for American

tech companies more apparent than real?

“People love the image of Cuba with its vintage 1950s cars,

but unfortunately its tech infrastructure is not much newer.

And that’s why US tech companies are eyeing eased trade

regulations with interest.” Barb Darrow, who covers technology

and high-tech companies for


, was writing on 15


January, the day on which the US Departments of Treasury and

Commerce issued orders that should make it easier for American

tech companies to enter the Cuban market. The moves came

only about a month after President Barack Obama signalled his

intention to open up Cuba-USA relations.

While the new regulations will pave the way for individuals

travelling from the USA to Cuba, Ms Darrow con ned herself

largely to consideration of the prospects there for American tech

companies. (“Just How Big Is the Cuban Market for US Tech?”,



January). A pertinent estimate was published in December

by the Peterson Institute of International Economics

(Washington, DC), which said that exports of US goods to Cuba

could reach $4.3 billion a year eventually – up from $360 million

in 2013. Cuban exports going the opposite way could reach

$5.8 billion at some point – up from zero now.

The American telecom sector would seem poised to gure in

that trade. The USA has pledged to ease the “establishment of

commercial telecommunications facilities linking third countries

and Cuba and in Cuba.” According to a Commerce Dept fact

sheet, a new general licence by the O ce of Foreign Assets

Control (OFAC), a Treasury Dept unit, should ease the sales

of “certain consumer devices, related software applications,

hardware and services for communications-related systems.”

There is no question that the demand is there. Ms Darrow sees

“pent-up need” for communications and other tech services in

Cuba where personal ownership of cell phones or computers

was prohibited until 2009.

Transatlantic Cable

Image: Photographer Zsolt Ercsel