“Smart Cities are about leveraging intelligent communication-based technologies to solve the problems that cities face today.” – Sterling Hughes, Senior Director, Technology at Silver Spring Networks

About Silverspring Networks:

Silver Spring Networks is a leading networking solutions provider for smart grid energy networks, headquartered in Silicon Valley. Their Smart Energy Platform™ supports advanced metering, outage restoration, and load management operations. The technology equips home utilities with smart energy management to keep energy costs down and offer technical support.

Sterling Hughes, Senior Director, Technology at Silver Spring Networks, shares his time between Paris and Silicon Valley. Following his participation to the Digital Festival “Futur en Seine” in Paris last June, we caught up with him over lunch at SilverSpring Networks’ Headquarters in Redwood City, CA. Hugues shares his thoughts about Smart Cities, and tells us more about SilverSpring Networks’ Smart Lighting projects in Paris.

What is a Smart City and how does your company contribute to making cities smart?

Hughes: For us, Smart Cities are about leveraging intelligent communication-based technologies to more efficiently solve the problems that cities face today. It is about deploying a network and leveraging software on top of that network, so that cities can effectively reduce crime rates, their carbon footprint, or overall energy consumption and expenditures. Silver Spring Networks will modernize today’s power grid to improve energy management and efficiency. Our networking platform (IPv6), software and services equip utilities to seamlessly deploy, monitor, and scale multiple smart grid applications on a single unified network. In France, our technology supports Smart Lighting, a new management of traffic and street lights.

What is Smart Lighting, and what added value does it bring to cities and citizens?

Hughes: A major challenge affecting urban energy use is powering streetlights efficiently. It takes quite a lot of energy to power a public lighting system. With today’s LED technology, cities can reduce their energy consumption by 70%,. Smart lighting means replacing fluorescent light bulbs with LEDs and integrating them into a network for remote access and advanced functionalities. The great thing about LEDs is that you can dim or brighten the lights, saving 70% on your energy consumption and offering quality lighting to the city. Silver Spring is a grid network company: we partner on both the software side and on the hardware side of engineering. For example, on the software side, we partnered with a start-up in Paris: Street Light Vision. They already provide the lighting and controlled management software for over 300,000 light locations in France, and we are now working together on contracts in the USA.

You had the opportunity to attend the Digital Festival “Futur en Seine” in Paris last June, why did you attend and what did it bring to Silver Spring Networks?

Hughes: We are trying to grow our business in France, and took advantage of Futur en Seine and the Smart Cities Delegation organized by PRIME and the French Consulate in San Francisco, to meet with companies who are our potential partners and clients, in the smart lighting space. Paris is a hub of innovation for smart cities technologies. It was a wonderful opportunity to present our project and get more visibility, but also to meet people working on other Smart Cities projects in France and worldwide.

What kind of partnerships would help you grow your business in Paris, and what are the challenges of this international development?

Hughes: Cities like Paris are extremely innovative. The forward-looking strategies from politicians are key for us. However, dealing with existing regulations remains a big challenge. When implementing highly innovative programs, one needs to investigate how existing regulations will apply. Will a policy restrict or help implement a new system, and how easily can they be reformed? Paris is very progressive and currently experimenting with ideas. We love that they have launched incubators and test-beds to implement new technologies and systems in the City.