Street Lights With a Cell Phone

Imagine being able to control LED street lights with your mobile phone. This isn’t a prank, but an eco-friendly solution now in place in parts of Germany.

The (I must add) responsible denizens there have put in place a system called Dial4Light that lets cell phone users turn on the street lamps only when someone actually needs illumination. We won’t suggest this for streets like Harlem or the dodgier parts of Asia since it’s so easily subject to abuse.

Much like your very own on/off switch at home, this one requires you to dial up the lights, with a 15-minute grace period before it gets pitch black again. And the best bit, a reported cost savings of 25 percent in power bills for the the towns, not to mention everyone doing their bit to reduce their carbon footprint. Just don’t leave home without your phone.

Okay, first of all, this is legit, not a hack. And secondly, it only works in Germany. In a few villages. I know, it’s a shame, and I got your hopes up for nothing.

The German system, called Dial4Light, is designed to save energy by only turning street lights on when somebody actually needs them. If you’re out and about at night, all you have to do is dial a number, enter a code for your street, and the lights will come on for 15 minutes. The system is completely free, and cut electricity bills by an impressive 25%.

Interestingly, a BBC video report on the Dial4Light shows that there is apparently a billing system already in place, it’s just not in use. In some ways, billing people individually for turning on street lights makes sense: if everyone else is sleeping, why should they be footing the bill for your 2am street hockey games?

What I’d like to see would be street lights that operate on the same basic principle, except using Bluetooth instead of a phone call. All you’d have to do is carry your cell phone with you, and whenever a street light detected a Bluetooth signal, it would turn on.

That way, you’d have light where you wanted it, when you wanted it, without any waste of electricity or excess light pollution.

Best Way to Temporarily Turn Off a Street Light


Well they finally went and done it. My city just fixed the street light by my house, that’s been dead for ages. I can no longer see shit through my telescope, from my own home. I mean I was having trouble even identifying Spica and Polaris to do an alignment. How can I turn it off for the period that I’m observing.

It’s supposed to be possible to trick them with a laser pointer, on their photo cell, but it has to be on it constantly. I could do it with a tripod, but most laser pointers don’t seem to like being on more than a few minutes at a time. Any suggestions other than the old slingshot or pellet rifle? I don’t want to be paying to replace the thing.

First I called the city and asked if they maintained the street lamps. They kindly directed me to our electric company. When I called them I explained my situation and the nasty light that shines not only into my house but also makes observing quite impossible. The rep was not sure what could be done and put me on hold.

A couple minutes later she said she had put in a service ticket for me to block out the side of the street lamp that shown on the yard and house. She warned that it could take a couple of weeks to complete though.
That phone call was 2.5 weeks ago and tonight I came home to a beautifully darkened yard!

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