The concept of what streetlights do and how they operate is changing — from Pittsburgh's LED streetlights to some creepy-sounding surveillance capabilities for streetlights in Las Vegas.

In San Diego, for example, a partnership between the local utility, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E); an industry group CleanTECH San Diego; and many of the county’s 18 cities and public agencies, is pursuing a new vision for smarter lighting. The Street Light Working Group (SLWG) has already undertaken a massive rollout of energy-efficient LED street lighting. And saving money on streetlights — the top single usage of electricity in most cities and municipalities — is a huge deal in many communities.

With Phase 1 complete, SLWG is now thinking beyond efficiency, retrofitting lights to include real-time monitoring capabilities to report outages or vandalism, and net metering to allow the county to actually save money when it dims its lights. (Californian cities are charged a fixed tariff for each light, so dimming doesn't currently save money.)

The efficiencies and money savings these technologies generate are just the beginning. The streetlights of the future will offer many more services to the public and the city alike, according to SLWG: 

The real benefit of the adaptive controls is that once the smart streetlights are converted from non-metered utility tariffs to metered tariffs, it enables the city to plug in third-party applications and create an entire smart-city streetlight grid. The streetlight network can enable holiday lights, provide emergency preparedness and response, initiate chemical sensors for homeland security applications, provide Wi-Fi to low-income neighborhoods, enhance cellular service with microcells, power EV charging stations and more. The vision for San Diego’s SLWG is that the smart street light network emerges as one of the most valuable smart grid assets to a city. 
This is pretty cool stuff. More cities should make the most of their basic assets and infrastructure, and save some taxpayer money in the process. 

Related files on MNN:

How streetlights are getting smarter
In the near future, streetlights won't just be a source of light; they'll be a smart hub for power and information too.