High-tech GE street lights coming to Jacksonville

Innovative LED street lights also record data, allow city to make announcements

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville has become the second city in the world to participate in a high-tech street light project with General Electric, but some residents worry that it could come at the cost of their privacy.

GE on Thursday announced plans to install 50 LED street lights in the city, but the lights do a lot more than keep the roads lit.

The lights also will allow city personnel to see for themselves what goes on in city streets.

"Street lighting will be able to give the city of Jacksonville access to real-time data," GE general manager Jaime Irick said.

GE held a news conference Thursday to announce the pilot program in Jacksonville. For at least 45 days, and no longer than six months, 50 LED lights will be put up around Jacksonville.

The street lights will have built-in image sensors and wireless transmitters.

Irick said the lights will be able to collect data, such as tracking open parking spaces.

"We're going to have a camera in every street light, and really a computer in every street light that'll be able to pull information about available parking, provide that information into the cloud so that citizens would be able to identify which parking spots are available before they come downtown to an area," Irick said.

The city could in turn use that information to develop an app so people can check for open parking on their smartphones.

GE said the lights could also broadcast city announcements.

"The number of opportunities are endless," Irick said.

So what will happen to all the data collected by the lights?

GE said that's up to the city.

But some people are concerned about privacy.

Attorney Rod Sullivan said the lights' ability to tap into residents' lives is a concern.

"It has video capability, which means it will be able to take pictures of your car and tell a central authority where your car is at all times," Sullivan said.

The good side of the surveillance is that it could help catch criminals.

"Let's talk about the vibration analyst. They will be able to detect gunshots, automobile accidents and explosions -- all of those are good things," Sullivan said.

The lights will go up in 30 days. GE wouldn't say how much the project costs, but because it's a trial, the city is not paying for it.

GE and the city said the locations for the lights haven't yet been nailed down. 

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