1 January 2015

Tvilight: intelligent street lighting delivers energy savings of up to 80%

Millions of lamp posts light the streets of Europe every night. That’s good for safety of course, but unfortunately the lights stay on even when the streets are empty. That is an enormous waste of energy. The energy bill for Europe alone is more than 10 billion euros a year. That corresponds to 40 million tons of CO2 emissions: the equivalent of 20 million cars.

Chintan Shah founded Tvilight in 2011 to seek a solution for this problem. Tvilight has developed smart sensor technology that modifies the level of street lighting according to the amount of traffic. The lights are dimmed down low at quiet times during the night. If a pedestrian, bicycle or car is detected, the lights switch back on to their full strength. Because the lamp posts can communicate with each other over a wireless network, the lighting can follow the traffic. Road users are surrounded with a safe circle of light. The solution has demonstrated energy savings of up to 80% and 50% lower maintenance costs. Less light pollution makes it an environmentally friendly solution and the cost of the system can be recouped within 3-5 years.

At the heart of the system is a combination of sensors that detect road users. Tvilight deliberately makes use of a combination of a number of sensors rather than any cameras, so that road users’ privacy is respected. And moreover, the sensor has been designed in such a way that the lighting only gets brighter when it is needed and so is not triggered by a cat, rain or an unstable lamp post.

Personal click
For patenting of their inventions, Tvilight approached Arnold + Siedsma. At Tvilight, Henri Eskonen is responsible for the patenting process. "Only after speaking to a number of patent firms did we select Arnold + Siedsma. Our criterion was simple, we wanted an established firm with a good reputation. It was very important for us that the firm have a team of experts and a reliable back office so as not to become dependent on one particular person. That being said, it was, and continues to be, important that we get along with the people we work/partner with. At Tvilight we value the importance of interpersonal relationships so when selecting our partners we look for individuals we 'click' with. In the end our decision came down to the proficiency of Arnold + Siedsma and the connection we had with our patent attorney."

Pim Lubberdink, patent attorney at Arnold + Siedsma: “A start-up like Tvilight needs time to bring its product onto the market and to be able to grow as a company. A patent can prevent established competitors from nipping this growth in the bud by copying the technology.”

More than protection
Eskonen: "The obvious reason for patenting inventions is to block competitors from copying your technology, but it goes much farther than that. While searching for investments we found patents to be a critical factor in attracting funds. Patents are a kind of way to prove to an investor that your idea/technology is really something worth taking seriously."

Lubberdink: “Tvilight has developed fantastic technology, and has spent a lot of time and money on doing so. It is only logical that investors require this technology to be protected. At the same time, it’s important for a start-up that patent costs don’t anticipate commercial development. You need to make smart decisions about what to patent and when. I see it as one of my most important duties as patent attorney to advise clients on these strategic choices.”

Partnership with Pon group
Now that it has the protection of a patent, Tvilight has entered into partnership with the Pon group, which represents the Volkswagen brand and others in the Netherlands. Tvilight has grown in a short time to become a company employing 30 people, which has installations in the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and Denmark, and has been able to enjoy interest from a few significant media companies, including EenVandaag, CNN, WIRED Magazine, Fast Company, Intel and many more.

More information
This short film demonstrates the working principle of Tvilight intelligent lighting controls: