Intellistreets is a wireless digital infrastructure that is designed to provide information, entertainment and safety notifications to passerby, all while controlling vehicular and pedestrian traffic, providing on-demand street lighting, and monitoring its surrounding environment. But is your privacy being threatened in the meantime?


“In each lighting fixture or each lighting pole, there is processor very much like an iPhone. And it takes inputs and outputs and talks back and forth. And the poles actually talk to each other,” Intellistreets’ inventor, Ron Harwood, told WXYZ in Farmington Hills, Mich., where the technology is made.

Each “smart streetlight” is remotely controlled and features LED video screens to broadcast information, cameras with a proximity sensor and pedestrian counter, speakers for alerts or music, an emergency push-to-talk system, and more.

Harwood was inspired to create “something that would make people more informed … safer” in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

During major events, the pedestrian counter can alert police to large groups, and digital street signs can be changed to help handle traffic. On slow nights, the streetlight automatically dims, providing light only when it senses people approaching. Optional features like seismic sensors and water detection can further protect people from natural disasters or even save resources.

But Intellistreets cross the line in two major ways: The cameras can not only sense your presence; they can record video or take a photo of you. And its recording capabilities mean police could record your sidewalk conversation — just in case.

Harwood, however, says there’s nothing to worry about. “This is not a system with spook technology. It’s much more transparent. It can just talk to you and say, ‘Don’t fall over Niagara Falls,’” he said.

The first of these light poles are installed in Farmington Hills. But you may see them in your city soon. Harwood has orders from Detroit, Chicago and Pittsburgh, and is in talks with the Department of  Homeland Security.