“This award will help us to boost our influence”

To develop the first smart street lamp, you had to overcome a number of technological challenges, didn't you? Yves Le Hénaff : It will have taken us more than two years of R&D followed by a year of testing in Toulouse before we can say we have developed truly sophisticated technology. From the beginning, the project was based on a simple observation: in the age of the smart city, why do we shine bright lights onto the streets even when there's no-one there? Why can't we find a technical solution, in a similar way to the use of presence sensors at garage entrances? Simply because there were no street motion sensors that could detect when a pedestrian arrived, especially in somewhat difficult weather conditions. To overcome the challenge, we installed an optical sensor, Kara, which detects light variations on the ground, looking for people's shadows for around 40 metres to the left and right of the street lamp. If the light levels vary, Kara then determines whether this is caused by a pedestrian, a car, or a tree branch moving in the wind. How can it tell them apart? It all depends on the trajectory: if the shadow moves forwards at a steady pace of 5 km/h, it must be a pedestrian. At 30 km/h, it's a car. And if it constantly moves back and forth, it's a branch in the wind. By determining who is moving, Kara's computer then manages the power supply to the LEDs. What are Kara's strengths? It's fairly rare to be able to combine economic and environmental benefits. That's the appeal of the initial project, which was carried out in collaboration with the city of Toulouse, which has set a target price per sensor depending on the energy saved, therefore the amount saved on the energy bill. The city had no intention of funding technological innovation by increasing taxes. And ultimately, this street lamp – which has resulted in energy savings of up to 70%, an average consumption of 37 watts for 115 watts of lighting – is a successful example of a self-funding sustainable development project! In addition, as well as being used for public street lighting, Kara will also be able to increase safety in areas where people feel worried and where there is little foot traffic, and limit the cost of wasted energy in car parks, particularly those near shopping centres. What does this EDF Pulse Award mean for you? Unlike our competitors, we sell an electrical product that is used in public areas. And for town and city mayors, there can be no better guarantor in the world than EDF – if the Group trusts us, then officials are reassured and follow suit. It also has a major effect in terms of communication. For us, this EDF Pulse Award is a significant benefit in terms of our brand image, which will help us to boost our influence. What next? We've begun fundraising to strengthen the start-up and accelerate its development. Now that we're in the production stage, we need more staff and more marketing, which means more trade shows, exhibitions and demonstrations. We need to expand to become better known. We began this process in early June by being one of the start-ups invited by Ademe (the French agency for the environment and energy control – Ed.) to exhibit at a global environment summit in San Francisco (1). (1) The seventh Clean Energy Ministerial brought together energy ministers from 23 countries and the European Union on 1 and 2 June. To go furtherKARA - smart public lighting And the three winners of the third EDF Pulse Awards are...