Dialing for Light

As I've written before, the slow, inane city process for changing out dead streetlight bulbs seems to drag on for months (though a new scheme is planned). Meanwhile, The New York Times reports here that in tech-savvy San Francisco, municipal authorities are switching smart LED streetlights on and off with--get ready for it--their cell phones. LED streetlights are already about 56 percent more energy efficient than sodium lamps, says the Times. But the thinking here is that San Fran could potentially save even more energy costs by remote controlling them from the pavement level, instead of sending out a full truck and crew. Of course in Seattle, we have the opposite problem: Too many lights are out (the city has no idea how many), and it's our job to report them to the municipal bulb-changers. (They don't go out and look, and they don't work at night.) But maybe that's a potential GPS iPhone app: We stand in front of a dead streetlamp, send in the pole number (by voice or email), and the exact location would be mapped from our smartphone for the city to fix. Or, failing that, you can use your phone's glowing screen to see in the dark on your walk home.

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