Point leaders look into smart city options
Module test units installed in downtown
By Taylor Hale
The city of Stevens Point is installing several pe-light module test units in the downtown area during the week of May 24.
The units are made by German company EKS Engle Fiber Optics and are accompanied by smart cameras that will allow city officials to observe traffic patterns and other real-time data through existing fiber lines.
On May 17, city council members heard a presentation on the modules and smart cities, and how the units can provide everything from air quality testing to proximity lighting to reduce energy usage. UW-Stevens Point and UW-La Crosse students presented their findings to the council as a market entry research project as part of their coursework.
The modules are hidden within light poles and are used to relay data back to a main center through fiber lines. Additional components can be attached to the modules like cameras, speakers, proximity sensors for lights and parking availability, and much more.
The four-inch wide units create a network that allows cities to gather information on everything from parking patterns, foot and vehicle traffic, and other data. Using these devices could allow the city to save money on electricity, offer city-wide public Wi-Fi, reduced light pollution, and offer to-the-minute updates on parking availability.
Connection with a smart city leader
Mayor Mike Wiza feels that the pe-light modules could have a major impact on the city.
On May 21, he spoke with Mayor Thomas Fehling from Bad Hersfeld, Germany. Bad Hersfeld is a world-famous smart city with a population size similar to Stevens Point. The pair discussed the benefits of using fiber optic devices to create a smart city.
“For example, on the street poles there they have lights that show whether parking is available in certain lots,” Wiza said. “It could also be a possibility that we could have a free phone app that could show you what parking spots around the city are available.”
Wiza is excited to start testing the pe-light modules but said that it could take several months to bring up the discussion of making Stevens Point a smart city on the council level.
“This is just a test for now,” Wiza explained. “If things go well and we like it, we will do a cost-benefit analysis and see if it’s worth looking into more.”
Wiza said he is most excited at the possibility of offering free city-wide Wi-Fi and minute-to-minute parking availability.
“We would tailor everything to fit our needs here in Stevens Point,” Wiza said. “In Bad Hersfeld, they have oxygen meters to test for environmental issues and everything. They are much further along than us right now and more industrial, but we could do this our way.”
After all test modules are installed, the city will monitor them and gauge their usability within Stevens Point. No money was spent on the test units. If the city decided to move forward with investigating smart city options, money would be put aside in a future capital budget. Wiza said that he doesn’t see the idea gaining any major traction until after the testing period is further along.
To learn more about EKS and their smart city devices, visit eks-fiberoptic.com.