A stretch of 10 Mile Road just east of Orchard Lake Road in Farmington Hills has officially become a test bed for a new brand of intelligent street lamp.
The Intellistreets system from Farmington Hills-based lighting contractor Illuminating Concepts places energy-efficient, wirelessly controlled LED lighting atop metal poles.
As options, the system also offers speakers, LED signs, cameras and crowd counters.
The poles along 10 Mile Road were officially dedicated Friday morning in a ceremony attended by U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Hills), Oakland County Deputy Executive and CIO Phil Bertolini and Farmington Hills Mayor Jerry Ellis.
Illuminating Concepts founder Ron Harwood said the system was “born in the parks of Disney and Universal,” where “imagineers” sought better ways to guide huge crowds of happy people — and to keep them safe if anything dangerous happened.
After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Harwood said, Intellistreets also took up the task of helping first responders and guiding crowds safely around disaster scenes to safety and shelter.
Basically, the signs can be programmed by authorities to show any message — a civic welcome, directions to parking for festivals or farmer’s markets, maps, pretty much anything the imagination can conceive.
In emergencies, they can also post pictures of children being sought in Amber Alerts or the location of toxic chemical releases or the paths of tornadoes (and more importantly, how to stay away from those dangerous areas).
Jeff Stribbell, business development director at Illuminating Concepts, said the signs’ wireless controls are double-encrypted, and the control center for the signs can reside anywhere the municipality or authority involves decides it should — right down to, for instance, the fire chief’s smartphone.
The Intellistreets concept has drawn online criticism from civil liberties and religious Web sites, where posters fear it will be used to track citizens.
Harwood and Stribbell dismissed those complaints and said there’s no such intent. Stribbell said the people-watching part of the signs is intended to collect information to be used in economic development and traffic planning.
And Harwood said of the criticism: “The irony is, the first, most important part of this system is to save energy. Its electronics are so smart that it can create light only as needed.” He called Intellistreets overall “a nonpolitical, life-saving, energy-saving invention.”