Smart infrastructure, in the form of smart poles and smart towers, is a rapidly emerging trend in smart cities across the world. Further, many sm­­a­rt city initiatives worldwide, either alrea­dy under way or planned, have been inclu­ding electric vehicle (EV) charging in their plans. Countries are increasingly le­veraging technologies to create efficient access to EV charging infrastructure. Whi­le today most light-duty vehicle char­ging occurs at home or off-street, as the number of vehicles on the road increases, grea­ter access to day-time/public charging will be required. Since smart poles are already equipped with electricity connections, they can easily and cost-effectively host EV charging points.

Use cases

Smart poles, in particular, serve as core components of the infrastructure of a smart city. Their capacity to contain software co­n­­trols, electronics and sensors that can ass­ist in receiving and transmitting from a pole’s position to the operator’s location, is critical in driving demand for smart poles globally. Moreover, smart cameras ins­talled on smart poles can upload all their fo­o­tage on the cloud. Law enforcement agen­cies can thereafter use smart analytics software to analyse the footage. This software can instantly scour hundreds of hours of fo­o­tage and search for extremely specific features of people, cars or objects. The software, when combined with automatic licen­ce plate recognition, will make crimes much more difficult to commit, while making it easy to track vehicles.

Smart poles as EV charging stations

With the mass adoption of EVs and autonomous cars well on the way, vast nu­mbers of EV charging stations will be needed to keep traffic flowing. Smart poles contain all the components necessary to host EV charging equipment, and thus can double as convenient charging stations. This will dramatically increase EV charging infrastructure and reduce the range an­xiety that often keeps consumers from swit­ching to EVs. For vehicles moving through cities, this can create challenges if charging is required during the day. Alth­ou­gh efforts are continuously being made to increase charger availability, battery siz­es are getting larger and ranges are inc­rea­sing. Hence, easy and efficient access to public charging will be required.

Further, cameras and sensors on smart poles can be helpful in monitoring traffic patterns and relaying analytics. These analytics can prove to be useful in improving traffic conditions and reducing commute times. In the not-too-distant future, these analytics will be used to direct drivers and autonomous cars to the closest available parking spots or EV charging stations. In the end, this technology will make cities far more enjoyable and productive. In addition, as ride-sharing/taxi vehicles transition to electric, midday public charging will become a necessity to ensure that EV fleets can constantly serve their markets. Smart poles will prove to be efficient infrastructure to leverage EV charging facilities.

Roll-out of EV charging stations

  • Phase I: During the first phase of laun­ching EV charging stations, strategic locations will be identified. Thereafter, the project will entail city-level deployment and pilot projects.
  • Phase II: In phase II, procurement plans for smart poles will be developed. This phase will also witness the development of translation plans for small commercial and private EVs.
  • Phase III: The last phase will see imp­rovements in operational efficiency for deployed smart poles and EV charging stations. This will be followed by preparation of a translation plan for cities.

The way forward

Together, smart poles and smart towers give towercos the opportunity to monetise various adjacencies. In fact, smart po­les are rapidly emerging as the preferred medium for tower deployment among industry players. Further, with the growing need for mo­re environment-friendly transportation and the wide deployment of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the Indian EV sector seems to have a stronger foothold now. The majority of states have released EV policies, providing considerable incentives, and the central government is also releasing supportive policies in this space. EV charging infrastructure is an important part of the sector. This infrastructure is also being strengthened with supportive policies, technology advancements and initiatives by private and public companies. Given the geographical requirements and the increasing number of EVs, smart cities across the country are exploring smart poles as a means to provide public charging facilities. Going forward, as more and more EVs hit the Indian roads, smart po­les will prove to be crucial in meeting charging station demands.

Based on a presentation by Vikrant K. Aggarwal, Co-founder and Director, EVI Technologies