To many, a streetlight pole is just a pole. To Sternberg Lighting, these functional and decorative poles represent the future of a company that continues to grow, almost a century after its founding.
Sternberg Lighting is known for high quality, state-of-the-art products, from LED lighting to striking ornamental street signs for cities, universities and secondary education, retail, roadways, departments of transportation, and other clients.
From theme parks to shopping mall parking lots, proper lighting is a must for safety and security, and few realize this more than Paul Mitchell, who assumed the role of Sternberg’s vice president of specification sales, training, and education earlier this year. Mitchell has been with the business for twenty years, most of them as regional sales manager for all of western North America. He is still responsible for four states as a regional sales manager and regularly speaks at conferences and training sessions, informing people about the biggest innovation in lighting in decades, namely the LED.
“In today’s lighting industry, education is so important because the technology is changing so fast,” says Mitchell. He is a huge proponent of teaching others about the many advantages of LED light. “Whether it’s LED technology, controls’ technology, the technology of smart streetlights, or the Internet of Things (IoT), all of that is changing so fast. If we don’t have somebody educating people, then our rep agency salesforce isn’t going to be effectively able to present solutions, and our customers aren’t going to understand what solutions are real and what is hyperbole.”
To say that the light-emitting diode, commonly known as LED, has revolutionized the lighting landscape forever is not an exaggeration. Although the roots of LEDs go back over one hundred years, the technology saw its first practical use in the early 1960s, and dramatic changes began about ten years ago when diode companies began developing and applying phosphor coatings to blue LEDs, resulting in a bright white light.
Achieving light was possible before, but previous LEDs had nowhere near the output derived from the new approach. This now made LEDs a viable commercial source for light fixtures on poles, as enough light would illuminate the ground, using less energy and at a lower cost than HID lamping or other traditional light sources.
Although LED’s widespread adoption was slowed somewhat by the Global Financial Crisis at the time, the industry and technology are now so sophisticated that, in some cases, it is actually more expensive to purchase non-LED light fixtures. “About ninety to ninety-five percent of what we do is LED now,” states Mitchell.
Customers occasionally approach Sternberg asking for other forms of lighting, such as high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps used in industrial facilities; however, these and other non-LED lights are becoming more difficult to produce, as production methods have switched to LED. While Sternberg is still providing quotes for high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps and other lights, it also informs customers about the costs and benefits of LEDs, which last much longer while using less electricity.
“We will let them know economically,” says Mitchell. “They may still think LED is more expensive, but we will take that opportunity in the design stage and quote it both ways. To go back to HID technology sockets and ballasts and all of those things… it is actually more expensive now for non-LED versions.”
LED technology has lower operating costs and greater longevity when compared to older lighting types. There is also the issue of non-LED technologies being legislated out of existence because they do not meet minimum efficacy standards. For example, there is an expiration date in place for older HID ballasts, after which they will no longer be sold. And although Sternberg offers a seven-year warranty, the company cannot guarantee it will have parts available for old lighting types, and it may not legally be able to bring them to market.
The company has a full-time staff of about 108 and approximately thirty people who work part-time to manufacture hundreds of lighting products and items such as decorative street traffic signs and bollards for pathways. Employees include skilled manufacturers and assembly workers, certified welders, and optics specialists.
The company is behind Intellistreets, advanced, flexible, wireless solutions that integrate energy-efficient LED lighting with digital signage and more. These products are widely used with Sternberg fixtures in cities, sports arenas, college campuses, and other areas.
Patented Intellistreets technology uses electronic control modules that can be embedded in or attached to structures or light poles and are rated for indoor and outdoor use. This state-of-the-art system is designed to “monitor, control, and report status of digital lighting systems,” according to the company, and “is also enabled with an audio amplifier, digital sign output, relay closures, and sensor inputs/outputs.”
This is nothing less than ground-breaking for the lighting industry as the applications of this technology are practically limitless. Many cities, universities and colleges have security buttons connected to campus security or police in case of emergency. The disadvantage is that, once the emergency alarm is activated, it will still take time for help to arrive. With Intellistreets, these poles can be outfitted with an array of interactive technology, from two-way communication and flashing lights that direct first responders to cameras that record what is happening and more. This provides the ability to not only report criminal activity, but to effectively deter it from occurring.
And in cities like New York and Boston during massive events like New Year’s Eve in Time Square or the famous Boston Marathon, security can be tremendously elevated with 360-degree cameras providing authorities with a bird’s-eye view of the area, missing child messaging, emergency notifications, and even notices informing pedestrians of closed walkways and alternate routes. Depending on requirements, special cameras can be installed for facial recognition or reading license plates. To maintain privacy, city planners can use infrared cameras to do headcounts while preserving anonymity.
“There are all sorts of things you can do with different camera technology, depending on what solutions you are looking for and what concerns are you trying to avoid,” says Mitchell.
One of Sternberg’s recent projects is on 47th Street in Cape Coral, Florida. “One of the neat things about that project is that it incorporates wireless controls, the second wave of what changed our industry. The first wave was LED technology itself and being able to get high output white light out of these diodes,” states Mitchell. “The second big wave is these controls.”
Controls can prevent energy waste in places like parking lots, where most employees are gone by 10 p.m., yet lights remain fully illuminated until morning. With LED lighting and controls, parking lot lights can be dimmed by fifty to sixty percent, providing ample light for security staff patrolling the area but using less power. Likewise, this technology can be used on city streets, with LED lights dimming in late evening around 11 p.m. and decreasing further at 3 a.m., before shutting off entirely at sunrise.
“Dimmable lighting, or what we call adaptive lighting – adapting the amount of light to the day of the week, the time of the night, and most importantly, the level of vehicular/pedestrian interaction – that’s a game-changer, and in Cape Coral, all of those lights were done with wireless controls, so they can do just that, adapt the level of light as needed.”
A project in St. Cloud, Minnesota, incorporates Intellistreets, going far beyond dimming or turning lights on and off. Lights are integrated with cameras, speakers, notification systems, and LED banners, becoming the eyes, ears, and voice of the city. By capturing everything going on around the light via microphone and cameras, the system can provide the public with information via speakers or an LED banner displaying maps. To date, about 185 smart lights have been deployed around the city.
The potential of Intellistreet is limitless. The system began development shortly after 9/11 with national security in mind. The system integrates technology into light poles, electrified assets already owned by municipalities. This technology can be used for safety, security, emergency, and can even provide information at tourist attractions or inform first-year students on college campuses where certain buildings are located.
The company founded by Emil Sternberg keeps advancing and will turn one hundred in 2023. Lighting technology itself has dramatically changed in that span, yet Sternberg’s commitment to customer service and quality remains strong. The future will see these fixtures outfitted more than light poles, having cameras, microphones, alarm systems, video displays and more.
“We have to educate people that the pole is no longer just a stick that holds up a light,” says Mitchell. “That pole is now very competitive real estate where some people want to use it to integrate 5G solutions, Wi-Fi into an area, or cameras and microphones.”