(Originally published in the Farmington Observer, October 30, 2011)
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If you thought you saw light poles along 10 Mile in Farmington Hills beaming different colors or playing music recently, it probably wasn't your imagination.
For the last several months, eight new "intelligent" light poles have been tested outside of Illuminating Concepts, between Orchard Lake and Middle Belt.
The digitally controlled light poles are only limited by what people want to use them for, say developers at the company - and that includes light shows and music, in addition to allowing for attached digital illuminated signs with pedestrian, traffic and weather notifications, festival ads, videos and much more.
"The potential for such systems has been obvious to everyone who has seen the technology at work," said inventor Ron Harwood, president of Illuminating Concepts.
The technology is called "Intellistreets."
"Intellistreets is adaptable to what its environment needs, when it needs it," Harwood said.
The wireless system also allows for reduced energy costs with dimmable, programmable and "smart" LED lighting, which draws less energy than traditional lighting and is controllable from a remote Internet-based command module.
'One of the best and brightest'
On Friday, the Intellistreets system was officially launched to the public in a ceremony at the company attended by state, county and local officials and other dignitaries.
Harwood told those attending that the idea was born partially of his experience at Disneyland, where visitors leaving were given way-finding technology to tell them where to go when the park was ready to close.
It was also because of 9/11, Harwood noted, saying it became obvious that people in an emergency needed way-finding and audio alerts.
The resulting technology is the result of collaboration between area universities, Oakland and Wayne county executives, the city of Farmington Hills, police and fire and his staff, Harwood said.
"I'm only the guy who was smart enough to hire people smarter than me," he said.
"The great thing about Illuminating Concepts is that it represents one of the best and brightest companies that we have in Michigan," U.S. Rep. Gary Peters said in his remarks. "I think what's exciting about this project is that this is something Illuminating Concepts can sell all over the world."
At the forefront
"This is another example of Farmington Hills being at the forefront of innovative technology," Farmington Hills Mayor Jerry Ellis said.
The city invested federal grant money that supports green technology initiatives into the company, making Farmington Hills the first site in the world to feature Intellistreets.
The city would have to buy the system, however, in order to have it on other streets. The light poles on 10 Mile will remain as demonstration light poles for clients.
After remarks by dignitaries, the ribbon was cut at the entrance to the company property, after which the light pole began playing It's a Beautiful Day.
More demonstrations were then given inside the building.
Jeff Stribbell, marketing director of Outdoor Media Group at Illuminating Concepts, said the company is expecting to receive orders now that it's launched the product.
"We've had significant interest. It's incredibly fun," he said, showing with a tablet how the pole can be programmed.
Lots of possibilities
Farmington Hills Fire Chief Corey Bartsch said he was intrigued.
"Anytime we have the opportunity to reach out to the public to tell them about various hazards, that's good," he said.
"It will be interesting to see the applications and if this is affordable as well," Farmington Hills Police Chief Chuck Nebus said. "There is a wonderful list of wonderful applications."
The celebration was company-wide. While he didn't work on the project, Larry Park, industry designer at Illuminating Concepts, said, "It's great because there's a lot of excitement around the product. It's great to be in a company, especially in Michigan right now, that is investing in creating new technology."
The technology was touted by the company as "revolutionary technology that combines homeland security, energy conservation, entertainment, concealed audio control, traffic direction and rerouting, aesthetic applications and much more, into a public fixture - the urban light pole."
Founded in 1981, Farmington Hills-based Illuminating Concepts is one of the world's largest lighting and media design firms.