Would the last car to leave please turn down the street lights?
We’re trying to save energy.

  That message might work, but for now, there’s an option developed
by a Pueblo firm to do the same thing.

  When vehicles heading up and down Interstate 25 around the
Colorado City interchange leave, the overhead lights will dim by
about 200 watts, controlled by Airinet Inc.

  David Bueno Jr., one of the founders of Airinet, said that the
company has just provided the Colorado Department of Transportation
with its Lumitrol devices that are now responding to traffic by
brightening and dimming street lights along the interstate.

  Airinet was founded six years ago, offering wireless Internet
connections from nodes around the city on a subscription
basis.

  The wireless Internet business is still there, competing with new
generation cellphone networks, cable and even free Wi-Fi, but Bueno
says the company sees a strong growth potential in wireless
monitoring and control of systems like street lights.

  “We developed technologies we used for broadband,” Bueno said,
“but we saw a lot more benefit in a lot less saturated
market.”

  The I-25 project is the first time Airinet has used its devices
on high-pressure sodium vapor lights. However, a couple of years
ago, the company provided its boxes to Black Hills Energy to mount
on a set of light-emitting diode street lights in Belmont. Like the
ones on I-25, they brighten when sensors mounted a short distance
away see traffic.

  While LEDs are highly energy efficient compared to the standard
mercury and sodium vapor lights normally used, the system helps to
save time and money in monitoring the lights and alerting crews to
do maintenance.

  Another package has been sold to Kansas City, Mo., Bueno said,
where it costs as much as $10 million annually to patrol streets
and check for problem lights. The devices will alert the city or
utility immediately if a light is malfunctioning or burned
out.

  The latest generation of Lumitrol boxes include features like
copper theft detection, global positioning and battery
backup.

  Another plus is that once the system is in place, it can serve
other users. A lot of utilities would like to monitor meters
remotely but even with radio transmitters, crews still have to
drive around to get close enough. Having the Airinet boxes on every
streetlight provides a framework for a citywide network.

  Then there’s also the saving in energy costs.

  For the lights at Colorado City, he said, and on other busy
roads, lights still can be dimmed 98 percent of the time. Over a
night, Bueno said, a light is on 551 minutes but can be dimmed 541
minutes. “It’s a pretty dramatic savings. Depending on the cost per
kilowatt hour, it could be $100 a year per light.”

  Airinet is a privately held company and Bueno declined to say
what sales are. The company has eight employees.