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Network connecting new LED streetlights in Syracuse could collect other data

City of Syracuse
Examples of the new LED streetlights in Syracuse.

The city of Syracuse has begun upgrading its streetlights to LED lighting with sensors to collect data, after the city purchased more than 17,000 streetlights from National Grid. The kind of potential data the city could collect using sensors, is still up for debate. 

The new lighting is clearer, whiter, lights the streets and sidewalks better and is meant to save the city on energy and maintenance costs. The lights are also connected with sensors to measure when they’re on or off and how much energy they’re using. Sam Edelstein, chief data officer with the city of Syracuse, said the network can connect to other sensors and the discussion now is about what is appropriate to track.  

“Sometimes there are things that are very exciting that we should absolutely do because it helps the community or it helps our own municipal operations to improve," Edelstein said. "There are other technologies that are available that we already know or we will hear from the community that there isn’t a comfort level with deploying."

One controversial use could be cameras tracking facial recognition, which Edelstein said there are no plans to do. But adding WiFi is one possibility, as is putting a sensor in Onondaga Creek to know if it’s flooding.

“It floods almost every storm," Edelstein said. 'Knowing when and where it’s flooding, then we can shut down the creekwalk, which right now is very much a staff burden.”       

A $500,000 grant from the New York State Power Authority to Syracuse will go towards testing different sensors and technology. Upgrades of all the streetlights in the city will be completed sometime next year. The Syracuse Common Council is also considering legislation to enter into a partnership with Syracuse University for data sharing, so students could help the city sift through the information collected.


Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.