An eye to save power consumption

Smart-i from Rome wins the international Enel competition with its intelligent street lamps that reduce the consumption of electricity based on real need

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Are you ready to look up to the street lamps to discover smart eyes?

They’re not quite intelligent street lamps but they’re on the right road. Smart-I from Rome after having passed two pre-selection and selection phases with Bic Lazio and Tecnopolo Tiburtino and obtaining funding from Filas Lazio of 100 thousand euro, won the first edition of Enel Lab competing against 200 Italian and Spanish start ups dedicated to clean technology.

The product which won over the Enel experts, the smart eye (for a play on words it is pronounced like the name of the new start up) is set to grow and revolutionise energy consumption in Italian towns. It is an optical sensor, a large intelligent eye similar to the size of a rugby ball that is installed on street lamps and, thanks to a built-in camera that interacts with an intelligent system is able to regulate the brightness of the light depending on the needs of the traffic.

For example, what’s the point in keeping all streetlights at 100% power efficiency if in a certain part of a road only a few cars pass every 30 minutes? According to studies carried out in the laboratory this system would save as much as 49% of energy consumption. There’s no surprise that Enel has snapped up this idea. In fact, in exchange for 250 thousand euro for the first year Enel will take 1 % of the share capital of Smart-I. In the second year with a new investment of 400 thousand euro Enel will acquire 30% of the company.

Here’s the team. Average age 30, 2 founding members, Mauro di Gianbernardino 38 and Gabriele Rondelli 31, engineers, another 3 engineers on the staff and a trainee designer will soon join the team to perfect the design of the optical sensor. “Gabriele and I, Mauro di Gianbernardino tells us- met when I founded my previous company A3R which develops military drones and aerospace technology. In the summer of 2012 we decided it would be useful to bring military technology to civil environments and invest in smart cities. Through my contacts in Enea we explored the market and started thinking about energy saving which was how the idea got off the ground. “We set up Smart-I in October 2012 and started to present the idea and the project to Bic Lazio where we got onto a pre-selection programme, then we got funding from Filas Lazio and now this fantastic partnership with Enel.”

Testing the optical sensors in the field, or rather on the road will take place soon. From June to July the smart eyes will be installed in the smart village at the Enea research and development centre in Casaccia to the north of Rome and the Aquila smart ring. They are also considering testing them in Bracciano and perhaps Potenza in collaboration with Enel. As the young engineers from Rome explain the objective is first to install about thirty sensors in the first year and then to sell the sensors and start by installing them in the City of Rome. The possibilities are endless if the energy saving is confirmed on the street.

On a curious note: funding has been awarded, the project is a success but the two founding members still haven’t had their first month’s salary yet. Yet another demonstration that passion is its own reward, and bears fruit.