LED Maker Xicato Plots Move into “Internet of Lights”
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consumers. With iBeacon, low-energy Bluetooth transmitters communicate with consumers’ smartphone apps. A museum, for instance, could provide background information on displays, or stores could provide special offers to people’s phones.
The challenge with this model is that these individual beacons are battery powered, so they’ll need to be maintained, and owners may need to set up separate wireless networks for the beacons to communicate with phones, says Harbers.
“Our proposition is: why don’t you integrate all the communications and sensors into the light? Why not have every light act as a Bluetooth beacon because you already have the power and lights are everywhere,” he says.
The advantage of LED lighting is that it’s electronic, so adding sensors for motion, daylight levels, and networking chips is relatively straight forward, he says. Much like smartphones eventually included GPS sensors, many commercial LEDs will include both the lights and other electronics, Harbers predicts.
He’s certainly not alone in believing that connected light fixtures should provide the sensing and intelligence for smart buildings. A number of lighting startups are developing LED fixtures or controls that effectively combine distributed computing with lighting.
Boston-based Digital Lumens, which has a partnership to combine their controls and software with Xicato’s LEDs, makes a lighting fixture for warehouses that can be networked and managed from a Web-based software application. Sunnyvale, CA-based Sensity makes a system to convert commercial lighting to networked LEDs. Similarly, Sunnyvale, CA-based Enlighted makes sensors and software to network office lights of all kinds to improve the efficiency of lighting.
As Xicato, which saw its revenue grow 43 percent last year, gets into sensors and wireless lighting, it’ll likely compete with other smart lighting startups and established commercial lighting companies, such as GE, Philips, and Cree, another LED maker which has started to make its own bulbs and fixtures.
Many LED lighting companies are targeting business customers because they can earn back the money they invest in LEDs and controls through energy savings. Harbers, though, hopes that the price of LED with a high CRI, which are more expensive, will come down and be accessible in the consumer market.