Gooee and Aurora are starting to look one and the same (UPDATED)

Sept. 8, 2020
In a news analysis, MARK HALPER follows the bumpy IoT road on which pioneer Gooee has lost a couple of key executives, and the two always-related companies now have identical marketing.

Gooee, a seminal smart lighting company that at one point was trying to appear independent from its step-parent Aurora Lighting Group, is now working closer than ever with it, as the two outfits continue shuffling down the not-so-easy-street of the Internet of Things (IoT), reshaping personnel and blending their ever-changing marketing schemes into one.

The changes have included the departures of two key Gooee executives over the last nine months — chief technology officer and co-founder Simon Coombes, and chief commercial officer Jan Kemeling — as Aurora founder and CEO Andrew Johnson takes firmer control of Gooee as CEO, LEDs Magazine has learned.

Andrew Johnson co-founded Gooee in 2014 as a company at the forefront of lighting connected to the IoT. Under the tireless leadership of then Aurora IoT boss Neil Salt — a Gooee co-founder who remains Gooee’s managing director — Gooee was an original champion of embedding luminaires with sensors and communications chips to collect data that could be analyzed and used to improve operations and customer relations in many industries such as the retail sector.

Early successes included providing development kits in 2016 to luminaire vendors such as Aurora, Feilo Sylvania, and John Cullen Lighting.

But actual deployments were slow to take hold. Three years after Gooee started evangelizing the IoT, LEDs Magazine published an analysis in 2017 describing a road that was already looking long and winding.

Around that time, Salt defended the slow progress by noting that “disruption can take a while.” He also predicted a “mass rollout” by 2018, something that has yet to happen.

Rather, Gooee and the lighting industry continue chugging along, and have yet to build the momentum they had hoped for.

In the process, Gooee and Aurora have each several times revised their marketing and product positioning, with Gooee changing its catchphrases and marketing slogans on a regular basis as it has tried to find an elusive sweet spot. It eventually de-emphasized smart lighting per se, and recast itself as a collector and analyzer of data that could help facilities managers run smart buildings.

For a couple of years now, it has been offering a three-pronged IoT platform consisting of “BuildView” for building optimization, “SpaceView” for environmental and behavioral analysis, and “LightView” for lighting control and analysis.

At the same time, Aurora itself has been chopping and changing its own approach to offering smart, Internet-connected lighting, to the extent that it has now settled on exactly the same three-pronged BuildView, SpaceView, and LightView headings as Gooee. While one is branded Aurora and the other Gooee, the marketing brochures could be easily swapped. Both use Gooee technology to collect, distribute. and analyze data, including cloud computing.

It’s unclear when Aurora began parroting the Gooee marketing program (or perhaps it was vice versa).

Whenever it was, it would have been unthinkable a few years earlier, when Gooee was still emphasizing development kits for lighting vendors and playing down its Aurora connections in order to appear independent to the rest of the industry. The writer of this article recalls a moment back in those days when Gooee rebuked him for conveying a close relationship between Gooee and Aurora in an earlier story.

In another change along the way, Aurora quietly dropped what turned out to be its short-lived AXiO line of smart luminaires.

Instead, it is emphasizing the “solutions” that AXiO always embodied, an Aurora spokesperson told us.

“AXiO has been incorporated into our Smart Commercial Solution, which was launched in September last year,” the spokesperson said. “We just dropped the name. AXiO was always based on Gooee, but now we provide various stages and options in terms of technology to our clients...The enterprise-scale solution [Gooee] offers a great deal more for companies that are looking for additional integration with their own systems.”

As Gooee and Aurora weave their identities, they are doing so under an increasingly one-and-the-same management team. Aurora CEO Johnson reassumed the title of Gooee CEO last year, a title he had previously held. MD Salt reports to Johnson.

Meanwhile, former CTO Coombes left the management team in May, although he remains an advisor to the company. He is now a Charlotte, NC-based “resident solutions architect” for San Mateo, CA-cloud data platform Snowflake.

Kemeling, the former chief commercial officer, left in January. He is now director of business development for Chensha International, a company he describes on LinkedIn as being a Singapore-based supplier of personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-related medical equipment.

Former Gooee top engineer Jon Couch parted ways with the company in June 2018 to join Welsh powerline communication lighting company enModus.

The last two commercial IoT jobs announced by either Gooee or Aurora have come from Gooee, neither for a while. In June 2019, it struck a non-lighting deal with Dutch engineering company Croonwolter&dros to provide cloud-connected building analytics — BuildView — for up to 5000 commercial office properties in Holland.

In February of this year, it struck a deal with London contract engineering company TClarke plc to install smart building technologies over the next five years. Like with Croonwolter, the announcement made no mention of lighting.

As part of the deal, TClarke obtained a small equity stake in Gooee, which has ownership connections with Aurora.

“Gooee and Aurora Lighting Group have some of the same shareholders but are not the same company,” the Aurora spokesperson told LEDs. She declined to elaborate on this and other changes at Aurora and Gooee, describing the matters as “confidential.”

Like the lighting industry as whole, Aurora and Gooee will be wrestling with a post-pandemic future in which the business world might cut way back on its use of commercial office spaces, thus raising big questions about the commercial lighting market.

Gooee and Aurora also work together in the home market, where Gooee provides hubs for Zigbee-based smart lighting systems. Aurora recently added a Bluetooth line, which does not require a hub, and does not involve Gooee. It is marketing the Bluetooth version as easy to use.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

*Updated Sept. 8, 2020 2:46 PM for company location correction.

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