It might be time for smart street lights like Tvilight. We’ll save money and things will remain beautiful.

You can read all about Tvilight at the Smithsonian’s website, but essentially the idea is simple: we have smart phones and we’re developing smart houses and smart umbrellas, so why not smart street lights? Tvilight’s lights will dim when no one is really around/underneath them (key point: they won’t turn off completely). Why do we need this? Because energy is a precious, and costly, commodity. Last year European cities spent 10 billion Euros keeping city lights on, which was responsible for 40 percent of the cities’ energy usage. With Tvilight, that can stop. Now, let’s address your first potential concern: visibility and/or safety if these lights were put into your city:

“The Tvilight system was designed to dim so that those looking outside from their house windows could still easily survey their surroundings. “We strove from the very beginning to enable energy savings without sacrificing what people are comfortable with,” Shah says. “From the tests and feedback we’ve received, people don’t even notice the difference.”

And then this, which we keep hearing about new “smart” projects:

“Five years ago, the technology wasn’t there and sensors and communication networks weren’t good enough,” Shah adds. “But these kinds of smart solutions are no longer futuristic, like something you see in a sci-fi movie. It’s applicable today in just about every place and that’s what everyone needs to start realizing.”

Sci-fi can now be real!

The economics: right now, Tvilight is in discussions with cities in Germany, Canada and the U.S. (primarily Los Angeles) to do this. They estimate it would take about three-four years for a city to switch over to this system, and once they did, the savings in the first year would be about 60 percent over the final year of the current street lights; it would remain at about that level (60 percent savings) for the initial run of the street lamps in the city. So far, they’ve been installed at the Beilen train station in The Netherlands.

If you don’t think this is a big issue (“street lights always seem to work just fine for me!”), check out this light pollution map. It was tweeted by Tvilight’s founder, so he has a desire to showcase said pollution, but still. Damn:

Final thing: if Tvilight is installed in cities, it could be snyc’ed up with hospitals to make it so that when an ambulance drives through an area, the street lights flicker red — and then:

“It could save the ambulance two minutes because the light could tell everyone it’s coming, and they could move aside more quickly because we control the streets, we control the lamps,” says Shah. “It could save a life.”

It’s not sci-fi anymore. Here we go.

Ted Bauer