A cluster of small towns in Germany is testing out a creative solution to the problem of electricity-sucking streetlights: on-call lamps.
The system, which was first implemented a year and a half ago in the town of Morgenröthe-Rautenkran, allows residents to turn on street lamps at night using their cell phones. After 15 minutes, a timer turns the lights off. Other towns, including Döblitz, Dörentrup and Groß Pankow, have also adopted the scheme.
While on-demand lighting seems like a good idea on paper, there are practical issues with its implementation. Residents of Döblitz have to call a phone number to activate the lights, and Dörentrup denizens are required to register with a system and enter a 6-digit PIN each time they use the streetlamps. These tasks may seem easy to the tech-savvy among us, but elderly residents could have trouble figuring out how to turn on the lights -- a major roadblock since aging citizens often need light the most.
To make matters even more complicated, the towns of Lemgo, Raden, and Dörentrup require residents to pay for the on-call lighting system. In Dörentrup and Lemgo, light activation costs the same as a cell phone call, but 60 minutes of lighting in Rahden costs the caller €3.50 ($4.65). This poses a problem not only to poor residents, but also to citizens who willingly sacrifice their personal safety to save a few bucks.