Friday Funny: Why Is This New Yorker Hugging A Street Lamp?

(Credit: GE Lighting/YouTube)

New Yorkers may have a reputation for not being the friendliest of folks when they’re in a rush to get from here to there. So what gives with New Yorkers chatting with —and even hugging — a street lamp?

It’s a very friendly street lamp. And it talks.

Here’s the rest of the story: GE and its new energy startup Current recently installed an intelligent street lamp beside Manhattan’s iconic Flatiron Building.

The street lamp is outfitted with a large video screen, microphone, and speaker that broadcasts the voice of an actor posted nearby. As people walk by, the street lamp offers weather forecasts, traffic information, compliments their wardrobe and pets, and provides directions to city landmarks. And in a surefire way to reach the most hardened New Yorker’s heart, the street lamp can even help them find free parking.

The interactions were so fun, friendly, and helpful that it inspired some otherwise jaded New Yorkers to hug the talking street lamp. Want proof? Check out this video:

Looking at the big picture, the chatty street lamp provides a glimpse into how connected objects will soon help urban dwellers, particularly in high-density urban areas. GE is hoping that New York City, as part of its “Smart City, Equitable City” strategy for technology and innovation, will begin replacing its existing streetlights with smart LED lamps that will eventually become the nationwide standard.

New Yorkers taking selfies with the talking street lamp. (Credit: GE Lighting/YouTube)

Admittedly, the New York street lamp is a bit of a gimmick: In actual installments, the street light will talk to your smartphone, not to you.

The future has already arrived in Jacksonville, FL and San Diego, CA. These cities have already fitted thousands of their LED street lamps with real-time sensors and microprocessors. Powered by GE’s Predix cloud-based Industrial Internet software platform, the street lamps generate and analyze data that could eventually notify city dwellers about open parking spaces, air quality, and traffic.

In addition to making cities more intelligent, the LED technology is also helping them save energy. In San Diego, GE has repurposed more than 3,000 city lights to GE LEDs and the city has saved more than $350,000 annually in energy and maintenance costs.

SST’s acoustic sensors and GE software can give street lamps the ability to detect gunfire in real time, connect to 911, and alert police patrol cars. (Credit: GE Lighting)

Crime could be the next issue addressed: Current recently partnered with the public safety company SST to embed its ShotSpotter detecting technology in the LED street lamps. Once wired, the lights can detect gunfire in real time and alert police patrol cars and 911 operators, pinging smartphones with the precise location of any shooting incident. Only about one in 10 shooting incidents are reported to 911, according data from SST and the National Gunfire Index. Even when the call does come in, it’s often too late and the information is imprecise.

ShotSpotter sensors are already working in more than 90 cities, including New York, Washington, DC, and Sacramento, CA. And they’re having an impact: San Francisco reported a 50 percent decrease in recorded firearms violence since deploying ShotSpotter as part of its gun violence abatement strategy, according to Ralph A. Clark, president and CEO of SST.

That alone deserves a hug.