New streetlight feature sparks wild theories – so what is it?

A new feature seen popping up on residential streetlights in NSW has left locals puzzled.

Wild theories about what they are and what purpose they serve emerged this week after a woman posted photos of the small, round white circle attached to the bottom of the light.

“Does anyone know why these lights with inbuilt cameras are appearing all over the Central Coast?” she asked members of a community Facebook group on Monday, attracting a wide array of responses.

Hundreds of people commented on the images, with some suggesting what she called a “camera” is being used to detect drivers on their phones or track locals with facial recognition. “Big brother is watching,” one person said, while another joked: “They’re scanners to check your microchip”.

The sensor on the streetlight on the NSW Central Coast.
The new streetlight feature has stumped locals in NSW. Source: Facebook

Others said they had also seen the small round features around and wondered what they were. Among the bizarre theories, several people who claimed to have helped with the installation of the streetlights interjected to reveal the new addition is not a camera, but in fact a light sensor.

So what are they?

Ausgrid confirmed to Yahoo News Australia that the circular object is indeed a light controller and sensor that helps them manage their LED street lights.

Ausgrid began replacing 100,000 older residential streetlights with the more energy efficient option in 2018, with work expected to be fully complete by the end of this year. Almost 30 councils are participating in the rollout, which stretches from north of Newcastle to the Royal National Park, south of Sydney.

Ausgrid said the LED lamps are up to 80 per cent more energy efficient than the technologies they replaced and will last up to 20 years.

The sensors on the streetlights.
Ausgrid said the LED lamps are up to 80 per cent more energy efficient than the technologies they replaced and will last up to 20 years. Source: Facebook

Council denies CCTV theory

The Central Coast Council confirmed to Yahoo that it is participating in the rollout.

“This program replaced older, high energy 80 Watt residential streetlights with new low energy 17 Watt LED’s to provide significant cost savings for Council and provide the community with more effective lighting, reduce light pollution in the night sky and lower greenhouse gas emissions,” a spokesperson said.

“The costs savings of the project for Council are expected to be approximately $6.5 million over the next 10 years, with these savings likely to increase as energy prices increase.”

The councils participating in the LED light rollout.
Almost 30 councils are participating in the rollout. Source: Ausgrid

The council said cameras or recording equipment of any kind “is not installed on any of the newly installed street lighting” and they have no current plans to place additional devices on them.

“The new streetlights being installed in residential areas contain an expansion port for future technological advancements and may be utilised for future smart city applications, such as dimming of lights, turning lights of/on remotely, and remotely reporting faulty lights,” the spokesperson said.

“This is a future platform, however, and is not currently enabled on the Central Coast. Furthermore, features such as surveillance, facial recognition and CCTV are also not installed on these streetlights.”

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