New Glamox CEO has an IoT mountain to climb

Nov. 10, 2022
Good thing that Astrid Simonsen Joos likes an adventure, because she has one ahead in smart lighting. Her strong IT background should help.

The lighting industry’s efforts to sell an array of services based on internet-connected wares hasn’t gone exactly to plan. Yet companies continue to hire IT-steeped bosses to try to reverse that. The newest of those is Glamox CEO Astrid Simonsen Joos, who recognizes the challenge.

“Most industry companies have been struggling a bit with IoT, or how to monetize and how to leverage data to enable products and services,” Simonsen Joos acknowledged in a recent interview with LEDs Magazine, during which we asked for her thoughts on the Internet of Things, or IoT.

Simonsen Joos quietly joined Oslo, Norway–based Glamox in August, bringing a rich background in IT experience, having headed Signify’s transformation to digital business processes (not an IoT lighting assignment per se), and having worked various roles at Microsoft for 13 years, among other technology stops.

Her hiring echoed moves by Fagerhult AB, the Habo, Sweden–based LED lighting company which four years ago tapped a non-lighting executive, IoT-savvy Bodil Sonesson, as CEO, and which two months ago again reached outside of lighting circles to tap Johan Lembre as chief technology officer, focusing on IoT. Between them, Sonesson and Lembre have years of past experience connecting security cameras to the internet.

Like her counterparts at Fagerhult, Glamox’s Simonsen Joos will now try to move “connected lighting” beyond the smart business of controlling lights, and into the more broadly intelligent arena of using lights and the lighting infrastructure to collect data that companies can analyze for insights on how to better utilize space, track physical assets and goods, generate sales, route traffic, and improve other operations.

The groundwork is already there.

“If you look at the transition into the digitalization of light, I think that many of the lighting companies have come far in moving from the products to more of the light management systems,” Simonsen Joos said. “But now on capturing data with the sensor-enabled luminaires, I think a lot of the lighting companies have not come that far in developing data-enabled products and solutions that customers really want and need and want to pay for.”

As LEDs reported earlier this week, Glamox is looking into at least one novel IoT prospect, as it contemplates how to use sensor-enabled lighting on offshore wind farms to help wind operators more efficiently position and run their turbines. Glamox has a significant LED illumination presence in the maritime and offshore wind sectors, so it is an area where the company is naturally looking for IoT opportunities. 

Back on land, Simonsen Joos noted that some of the IoT potential resides in applications that will help users save energy. That means employing smart lighting not just to turn lights down or off when not needed — privately held Glamox says smart controls can add 50% to 90% energy savings to already efficient LEDs — but also to gather data that can help a business reapportion space in a manner that addresses its needs.

I believe that capturing  some of the data and understanding the usage of rooms, usage of facilities in a much more optimal way than what we have today will be a benefit that customers will want to pay for,Simonsen Joos said. 

Glamox will also use data insights to better ascertain how to adjust lighting intensity and spectrum to better suit employee processes as the company pursues more human-centric lightingopportunities, she said.

Some of the IoT opportunities that Simonsen Joos has identified are not new to the industry, which has been talking about capabilities such as space optimization for the better part of a decade, with only limited success. The push into the IoT has come with some notable company flameouts, such as the IoT lighting pioneer Gooee. And large companies like Signify, Fagerhult (see Lembre link above), and Acuity have all noted a certain hesitancy among users.

One issue that lighting companies face as they try to reshape themselves as IT vendors is that they will inevitably overlap with dyed-in-in-the-wool IT outfits. Simonsen Joos noted that it will be important to partner with those companies, including cloud computing giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. (Its no coincidence that Gooees co-founder Neil Salt has landed with a cloud computing company.) 

We will become more focused on technology, but we will never compete one-to-one with them,she noted. The technology companies are quite far ahead, both in terms of expertise, how to use data, and with software development. We will never compete with them. I would rather work close with them, learn from them, also use their expertise which I know they are willing to do  to enhance the experience of customers.”  

In fact, she noted, the move to equip buildings with technology that better underpins facilitiesoperations has not been a breeze for vendors from any industry. 

I dont think this is something only the lighting industry is struggling with, I think its something that a lot of companies are struggling with,said Simonsen Joos, a cross-country skiing and mountain climbing enthusiast.

Ergo, all the more reason to strike IT partnerships. Its the only way the industry can attempt to ascend IoT heights.

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

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