Researchers from the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory are looking at expanding the ways the humble lamp-post can be used, with plans to improve the UK's traffic management and data services.

Under a research programme called Transport Information Monitoring Environment (TIME), the boffins have already built their own high-tech lamp-post, complete with on-board sensory equipment to measure the urban environment.

Dr David Evans, who is heading up the programme, said of the project "We are already collecting data from our first lamp-post on the main road outside the lab and examining what sort of sensors may be suitable for future projects."

Real-time traffic information

The research team's kitted-out lamp-post currently contains infra-red sensors that are able to count vehicles for traffic monitoring purposes. Dr Evans believes that the deployment of other sensor-equipped lamp-posts across town could benefit local inhabitants with real-time traffic information and offer planners valuable information.

"Lamp-posts are commonplace, physically robust and stationary and already have power available that makes them ideal for building a dense network of sensors throughout cities such as Cambridge," he said.

The University of Cambridge Computer Lab research team's lamp-post currently has facilities to connect with the main laboratory building via a line-of-sight Wi-Fi link. Other possibilities include the use of other networks such as 3G or 4G mobile phone technologies, or the use of multiple lamp-posts to form an ad hoc wireless network.