The Story of Ubicquia: from Street Lights to Smart Sensors to Smart Cities

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May 8, 2017 | Originally published by Date Line: May 8 on

How do you turn a ubiquitous item like street lights into a network of smart sensors to create a smart city that can monitor the environment, detect gun shots and so much more?

Ubicquia is making cities across the globe smarter with Kairo, a customizable, light pole-based router that takes advantage of existing city infrastructure. The inspiration for Kairo came from a street light outside of co-founder Tre Zimmerman’s house. Ubicquia had been working on an IoT project in Rome, involving IP cameras and smart water grids. The biggest issue they had was keeping the devices on 24 hours a day to record data they needed. “The cost of lithium-ion batteries, the cost of cabling, the cost of fiber, all of these things started to create a big impetus on the platform,” says Zimmerman. Then he spotted a street light outside his son’s room, still on at 2:00 pm.

“It gave me the sense that there obviously was power coming off the top of this light pole, and that all we had to do was figure out how to tap into it. There’s a light pole every 120 feet apart in every major city in the world. Do the math. That’s 255 million street lights just waiting to be connected.”

By taking advantage of the existing network of street lights, Kairo allows cities to become smart overnight. A city like Sao Paulo that suffers from major air pollution can simply plug Kairo into the cobra head on its light poles and suddenly have a network of pollution sensors ready to go.