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The lighting industry may be more than 100 years old but it has faced somewhat of an identity crisis in recent years. The cyber physical revolution has thrust the lighting industry into the center of a movement that is reshaping our built environment, opening up new lighting opportunities but also new opportunities for lighting firms beyond illumination. The result has been a wave of lighting startups, followed by the industry’s stalwarts spinning-off and rebranding. Now, even the lighting startups are changing direction, before they even reach the confusing landscape we call the lighting market.
“Lighting is positioning itself at the heart of all these changes in the building sector, due in large part to the pervasiveness of electric light throughout the building and urban environment. Within the lighting sector; M&A, divestment and several disruptive start-ups have shaken up this rapidly developing industry,” we wrote in a 2016 article titled ‘Lighting Positions Itself at the Heart of Smart Buildings’.
One of those potentially disruptive startups is Amsterdam-based Ingy had been creating quite a stir in the sector with its vendor-matchmaker play, before it decided to take an entirely new direction. Ingy’s initial idea was to pair lighting companies with companies in other smart building fields, such as CRE, IT, and building automation, in order to drive the case for lighting as a platform for almost all connected things. Lighting firms and the smart building sector waited to see what they could do, until the scrapped that plan entirely.
Instead, Ingy decided to create their own proprietary wireless lighting control system, one that it claims significantly improves the processes of installation, commissioning, as well as the operation of luminaires. Ingy’s promises to turn luminaires into smart building nodes with the capability to provide data for facilities management, be that space optimization, asset tracking, indoor navigation, or other applications.
“There is definitely a demand for a consulting firm that understands smart lighting and controls, and that can help companies there,” co-founder de Groot said in an interview for LEDs Magazine. “But the more we started doing projects, we really saw the need for this solution. We said it’s far more attractive to actually go into the market with a solution with our own IP and become more of a product company.”
In one sense, this is a bit of a knock for an industry that thought it already had the product range and was primed for a new kind of facilitator to propel the lighting-smart building ecosystem. In reality, however, at least one promising facilitator decided there was still a big product gap to fill in the martket. Ingy felt that conventional DALI controls required too much wiring, which is costly and disruptive, but also that too large a share of the market is currently served by standalone sensors. So convinced were they by these two factors that they completely redefined their business.
“We wanted to deliver a solution that could be sold at the same price point as a standalone non-connected sensor today, yet provide customers with a full upgrade path towards a smart-building,” de Groot said. “We make it very simple for our customers: Take your current design based on standalone sensors and replace them with our sensor hardware. Your budget does not need to be adjusted at all, yet you get a whole wealth of additional functionality. You can program your sensors super easy through our app, you get the full connected functionality normally requiring a full central DALI system, and you have all the hardware infrastructure in place to make your building smart.”
The solution they created claims to solve a lot of the problems and limitations encountered with other standardized wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and Zigbee. Ingy’s system can scale to thousands, even tens of thousands of nodes on one network and without a gateway being present. The system is also self-configuring, meaning there is no need to tell any of the nodes to relay the signal, “it all adjusts itself fully automatically based on circumstances, based on network traffic,” says de Groot.
Ingy does not handle the data, however, and is not impressed with the way data is currently handled by the lighting sector. “We believe the lighting industry became greedy, claiming that they will own the data and become the party to visualize the data for the customer,” de Groot noted. “This is thinking from your interests and not that of the customer.”
Instead, Ingy will pass on information to its analytic partners, including Gooee who have increasingly focused on the data side of their business. Ingy has also announced its first luminaire partner, Holland’s Koopman Interlight, who will incorporate Ingy’s own occupancy sensors to enable users to control or automate thousands of luminaires via a smartphone.
So the lighting industry may have lost a promising facilitator but now it has a promising new solution provider, and the same identity crisis. Lighting’s 100-year-old stalwarts are also still reconsidering their strategies. Just last week, on April 2nd, GE finally sold off its lighting/IoT/energy spin-off Current to American Industrial Partners. While Osram CEO Olaf Berlien continues to talk up his firm’s redefinition as a “high-tech photonics” organization.
The lighting industry has been at a turning point for some years now, and the evidence suggests it is still at that turning point. The only thing we can be sure of during lighting’s repositioning around the Internet of Things is that it had been slow to develop a clear and effective strategy. “It always takes longer than you think,” concluded Ingy’s de Groot. “But it’s really happening now.”