Is Fagerhult turning a corner with IoT lighting?

May 6, 2022
Real estate companies and financial institutions in Sweden and Italy are showing strong interest. But the market still needs some good lessons.

Fagerhult Group’s CEO has acknowledged that when it comes to internet-connected lighting, potential users still need a good dose of education in order to understand the benefits well enough to buy. But she said interest is growing strong, with new projects brewing in Europe.

“The biggest competitor we have is ignorance,” boss Bodil Sonesson replied when asked by a financial analyst on a recent first-quarter results web call to comment on the competitive landscape for smart lighting.

“This is still early days in the market,” she continued. “Everybody needs to understand the possibilities with this new technology. There is a high interest. But you need to understand how to use it and also the possibilities of using open systems to be able to integrate it with other partners.”

If the market is indeed “still early days” as Sonesson described it, it would be fair to call the state of development a prolonged infancy. Vendors have been promoting smart lighting for close to a decade now. Habo, Sweden–based Fagerhult stepped up its own efforts in 2017, when it acquired Melbourne, Australia’s Organic Response — now called OR Technologies — with the intention of embedding OR connections into at least some of the now 12 brands in the Fagerhult stable. 

Regular readers of LEDs Magazine will know the myriad potential benefits: Smarter lighting controls maximize energy savings, minimize energy costs, and foster dynamic lighting scenarios that shift as needs change throughout the day and night. And they extend beyond lighting. As luminaires become IoT-connected nodes, they can collect data and communicate information that tracks assets, optimizes space utilization, provides wayfinding services, and reroutes traffic on highways, among other useful functions.

Readers will also know that the industry’s push into the IoT has been slow going. Sonesson is not the first lighting chief to point out that the market requires more education. Two years ago, Signify’s Eric Rondolat acknowledged that fact, although last October he did deem the market “educated”.

Sonesson believes the connected lighting business is turning a corner.

“We see good traction in the market,” she noted. “The strong demand from property owners and real estate companies comes both from the energy savings potential but also from the added benefits.”

Indeed, the company announced three months ago that it has installed around 200,000 OR sensor nodes since 2019, indicating that things are moving in the right direction.

On the recent web call, chief financial officer Michael Wood declined to provide an update on the number of nodes but pledged to give the latest figures when the company reports second-quarter results in July.

Growing value of connectivity

Sonesson said, “We now have the technology integrated into luminaires from all our brands with large indoor sales.” The OR-enabled brands include ateljé Lyktan, iGuzzini, Fagerhult, Whitecroft, Eagle Lighting, and LTS Lighting, according to a slide presentation that accompanied the web call.

“In Sweden, there is a growing number of new opportunities with several leading real estate companies; and in Italy, we (have) a pilot project with a leading financial institution,” Sonesson said, declining to identify the end-user companies. “Project engagement and opportunities in the group’s core indoor application areas grows at an increasing rate.”\

Fagerhult also offers outdoor smart lighting using the Citygrid technology it owns via its full acquisition of Denmark’s Seneco A/S. In one new deployment, Sonesson noted that Fagerhult’s WE-EF brand is using sensor-equipped Citygrid to fully illuminate pathways only when presence is detected, and to dim down the intensity and color temperature when no one is around. The “Wild Light” solution is intended not only to save energy but also to minimize outdoor light pollution and to be wildlife friendly.

The energy-saving aspects of OR Technologies and Citygrid play into a broader sustainability strategy, which Sonesson said the company will articulate at the end of the second quarter. She noted that smart controls systems can add 70% energy savings in addition to the 70% savings LED sources provide over conventional lighting.

“That means in total we can reduce energy consumption up to 90% compared to conventional lighting installations,” Sonesson said.

Meanwhile, Fagerhult continues to recruit a new chief technology officer in a new role responsible for overseeing the smart lighting push. The company may announce later this summer. Sonesson noted the new executive will be a “market-oriented CTO so that we can focus more on partnerships and working on the thought leadership of the market.”

Fagerhult is emphasizing the open nature of its connected systems, she said.

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

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About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.