Today, the iconic luminaire that has long lit the streets of America— think Frank Sinatra leaning against a lamppost in the wee small hours of the morning—is undergoing a major technological update. Smart LED streetlights (produced by smart manufacturers like Echelon, Empyrean, GE, Philips, and Wi-Fiber) that are equipped with all manner of intelligent features are replacing their single-function predecessors in both urban and off-grid locations.

With an estimated 280 million streetlights currently in use around the globe (a number that is predicted to rise to 340 million by the year 2025), and annual operating costs estimated between $70 and $125 per unit, the opportunity for improvement is vast. While it can require a high initial expenditure, investing in smart street lighting can be cost-efficient over a period of time. (In communities whose small scale outweigh their economic clout, it’s also possible to retrofit existing systems with smart features.)

The payback isn’t limited to energy savings. Fixture heads can be equipped with cameras; and noise, motion, and environmental sensors can collect data that has a range of practical applications, from security and safety to quality-of-life concerns such as traffic control and pollution monitoring.

Poles, too, can be fitted with a full complement of convenient options, including charging outlets for electric cars. Communication features like WiFi hotspots, two-way emergency call capability, locator services, alarm systems, and electronic advertising/signage display panels can also be incorporated into the design.