Back in 2011, the city of Chattanooga was having serious problems with gang violence in one of its more prominent downtown parks, Coolidge Park (to a point, in fact, where local police tried banning unaccompanied minors there).
“They were getting ready to flood this park with these giant baseball field lights, and they were going to kill the ambiance of the whole park,” says Don Lepard, the CEO of a local company, Global Green Lighting, that was at the time attempting to convince the city to try out a new pilot of energy-efficient, wirelessly networked LED streetlights. Lepard’s pitch – with LED’s promise of steep energy savings and scant maintenance costs – was compelling from a budget standpoint. But this leading-edge technology wasn't fully embraced in Chattanooga until officials grasped that the streetlight of the future could also be a stunning crime-fighting tool.
In a city of wirelessly networked streetlights, each overhead bulb suddenly becomes its own search light, capable of brightening to illuminate a crime scene or tailing a suspect as he sprints down the road (how far we’ve come from mimicking the static light of the moon!). Now Lepard really had the city’s attention. But officials had one caveat: The whole system needed to be controllable, they requested, from inside a police car.