Look Ma, no lighting! Background of new IoT boss at Fagerhult is all IT

Sept. 13, 2022
The Swedish group wanted someone that knows connectivity. They found him in information technology executive Johan Lembre.

In searching for an executive for its newly created IoT strategy post, LED lighting group Fagerhult made it clear that lighting experience was not necessary. True to that spirit, the company has now filled the job with someone whose resumé is all IT, no lighting.

Johan Lembre has joined the Swedish outfit as chief technology officer from Earin, a Malmo, Sweden Bluetooth audio earphone company, where he had served as CEO for more than two years.

Prior to that, Lembre served two stints at Swedish networked security camera firm Axis Communications where he worked with current Fagerhult CEO Bodil Sonesson, who herself joined Habo-based Fagerhult from Lund-based Axis in October 2018.

Fagerhult did not publicly announce Lembre’s appointment, which took effect on Sept. 1, the company confirmed for LEDs Magazine.

“Johan has extensive international experience of building market-leading technology companies,” a Fagerhult spokesperson told LEDs. “He has a long career at Axis Communications, most recently responsible for global business development working with strategic software partnerships.”

The challenges of connecting security cameras to the internet are similar to those involved in networking luminaires and the lighting infrastructure. It is one reason Fagerhult brought in CEO Sonesson with her IT background four years ago, and is now tapping Lembre as CTO. Fagerhult is positioning “connectivity” as a key growth driver across many of its brands, which include Fagerhult, iGuzzini, ateljé Lyktan, Whitecroft, Eagle Lighting, and LTS Lighting, among others.

Lembre becomes the company’s first CTO, a newly minted role on the corporate chart. He reports directly to Sonesson, overseeing the strategy and deployment of Fagerhult’s Citygrid and Organic Response connectivity technologies.

As Sonesson noted earlier this year during the job search, 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.”

Connected lighting’s potential benefits span lighting and business operations. It can increase energy savings by turning lights off or down when not needed. And it can gather and analyze data, offering myriad operational insights to businesses and public agencies on space utilization, sales, inventory levels, road traffic, air quality, and many other conditions. 

But connected lighting has not caught on as rapidly as Fagerhult and the lighting industry in general had hoped, and one of Lembre’s biggest missions will be to raise end-user awareness.

The biggest competitor we have is ignorance,” boss CEO Sonesson said earlier this year (see previous link in this story).  “This is still early days in the market. 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.”

Sonesson reiterated that view during a web call with analysts late last month to discuss second-quarter results, when she indicated that the CTO would start soon, without identifying Lembre at the time.

“The CTO that we have employed will come a lot with a market-oriented perspective, being able, together with the brands, to develop thought leadership both internally and externally to help us to make sure that we take the next steps in growth in terms of connectivity and getting a much wider penetration,” Sonesson said.

Lembre takes over responsibility for IoT lighting from Geert van der Meer, who had been acting head of connectivity while serving in his key role as the head of Fagerhult’s infrastructure business area.

In addition to Earin and Axis, Lembre’s technology background also includes three years as CEO of Sydney, Australia–based security technology firm Pacom Systems from 2009 to 2012, prior to which he served his first stint at Axis, which is owned by Japanese camera stalwart Canon. Before that, he worked in mobile phone networking for Sweden’s Ericsson.

The new Fagerhult job marks Lembre’s entrée into the lighting industry.

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.