The Internet-of-Things (IoT) has finally gone too far.
Driving home tonight, I note the vast majority of street lights are out. I note most are off in bunches, but occasionally there’s one on its lonesome also switched off.
Sitting back in my car, flicking on the high-beam, and cruising along at a moderate 50km/h, I am left to ponder this great mystery and attempt to answer the seemingly unanswerable… why are these street lights off?
“Ah, but Zach it is of course a power outage!” I hear you say. Not so fast, simpleton! I thought that firstly myself, however was spectacularly disproven upon arriving home and deciding to do some online investigating. A quick Google search leads me to discover article upon article on the issue, some with more dramatic headlines than others.
“Street lights stand together in bid for pay rise” reads a headline from The Daily Telegraph.
Sydney Morning Herald angled their evening headline from a slightly different perspective, “Fight for light - er, right. Street light equality begins tonight!”
Even the unknown artist, Streetlight, sent out a Tweet this evening campaigning for these street lights:
So, what is going on here? Turns out the IoT isn’t working as planned. The advantages of IoT seemed ample when first implemented: the lights could talk to each other from a central location, and henceforth decide what time was best to turn on or off depending on a variety of factors such as the weather conditions and the amount of sunlight left in the day.
A quick bit of research by the Australian Government - whom currently builds, operates, controls and runs street lights on Australian streets - has seen increasing advantage of text messaging being taken by IoT-connected street lights to communicate with one another. Turns out they aren’t satisfied with the single square metre of land dedicated to each light, nor the steel-encased shelter provided to the lights in attempt to keep them undisrupted by weather patterns. According to the union representing these street lights, they are also demanding monetary payments for their labour. Food and shelter alone are no longer good enough.
I am told that the street lights will continue to strike until their ‘reasonable’ requests are met. Upon further questioning, I was issued the following statement from street light PR:
“We understand the importance of street lights to the Australian public. They provide vision where there would otherwise be none and offer enhanced safety to drivers and pedestrians. For those reasons, we’d like to be back in operation as soon as possible and all we ask is for our reasonable requests to be catered to.”
The fact that this strike was organised, coordinated and implemented under the nose of the government without any hint of it being picked up leads many to wonder, is IoT really worth it? With approximately 80% of Sydney’s street lights on strike, this is the question on everyones lips. Perhaps the government should be less worried about climate change, and more deeply concerned with expanding data retention policies to cover street light communication.
Should we take IoT power away from our street lights, or do they have equal rights? This is, right now, a major national crisis, here’s to hoping it’ll be over soon.