Once again, Fagerhult says IoT’s extended infancy could soon give way to the real thing

March 3, 2023
It’s been a long time coming. CEO Sonesson sees more and bigger installations in the near future, such as one at the headquarters of a Dutch retailer.

The prolonged dawn of IoT lighting continues, as Fagerhult’s CEO once again described the concept as being in “early stages.” But the sun could soon rise higher, as she also asserted that connectivity is now a “business driver” and pointed to a recent smart building job in Holland.

"I think, as we’ve said before…it's still in the early stages," boss Bodil Sonesson told one analyst who asked for a progress report on IoT lighting during the Swedish company's fourth quarter results web call last week.

Indeed, Sonesson has made similar observations before, such as nearly a year ago, when in late April she noted that "this is still early days in the market."

The extended take-off period for connected lighting is roughly a decade old. Its starting point could be traced to the 2013 founding of Gooee, a pioneering IoT lighting company that went out of business in April 2021.

The premise is to outfit luminaires and the lighting infrastructure with sensors and communication chips that gather and send information about room occupancy, human presence, climate, lighting conditions, and other operations. End users can apply the technology not only to improve lighting control and energy efficiency, but also to help with heating/cooling systems, analyze and reassign building use, track assets and inventory, provide navigation, help assign hot desks and offices, offer bargains to shoppers, direct road traffic, and so on.

While vendors have had some notable installations over the years for instance, back in 2019, Habo-based Fagerhult worked with Swedish security firm Securitas to help protect a Swedish science park the successes have had a "one-off" feel to them, thus the protracted early days. Like Sonesson, her counterpart CEO Astrid Simonsen-Joos at rival Norwegian lighting vendor Glamox recently acknowledged ongoing IoT challenges.

Notably, both CEOs Sonesson and Simonsen-Joos have information technology backgrounds, which is factoring into both companies’ efforts to finally catalyze an IoT business. Sonesson took the  Fagerhult helm in October 2018.

Ready for flight?

Despite her "early stages" characterization, Sonesson indicated that the smart lighting business could soon pivot. The company hired a full time head of IoT initiatives last September.

"We see very positive development," Sonesson told the inquiring analyst. "We see bigger and bigger installations." As an example, she said Fagerhult has outfitted the Utrecht, Holland headquarters of online retailer bol.com with luminaires equipped with Fagerhult's Organic Response sensors.

"They had a vision that they wanted to develop the smartest office in the Netherlands," Sonesson said. While Fagerhult has yet to release many details of its exact role at bol.com, LEDs Magazine has confirmed that it has installed about 6,000 Organic Response nodes across the facility.

It's not clear whether Fagerhult is the lead technology provider; LEDs will report more information as and when we get it. Fagerhult is working with at least one other vendor, energy specialist Equans, which is part of French company Bouygues.

Fagerhult said the smart lighting system is reducing electricity by 60%, and that it is assisting in navigation and in helping employees find available work areas.

Although the energy savings at bol.com is estimated at around 60%, smart lighting can help commercial properties reach 90% savings, Sonesson said. In best case scenarios, about 70% of that would come from LED lighting alone, with another 20% coming from the benefit of smart lighting. The numbers vary with the type of lighting that LEDs are replacing, among other factors.

Business driver

Installations like those at bol.com could soon become more common. Sonesson went as far as saying that IoT lighting is now a "business driver" for office installations

"I would say it's part of all the discussions we're having, depending on the application segment," she said, when quizzed by the analyst on whether or not connectivity is a business driver. "If you look into office applications, yes, I would say it's becoming a business driver. There are so many benefits to it for the customer, with the example with bol.com. It's energy efficiency that we start with where you take it to 90%, but then you have many other positive sides in terms of making the office future proof, making it smart. So yes, you'll hear us speaking much more about it in the future."

Sonesson said the trend is particularly notable in the company's Premium division, which is one of three Fagerhult business areas along with Collection and Professional, that sell to offices. A fourth one, Infrastructure, sells to rugged environments.

This is not the first time that Sonesson has hinted at the long awaited liftoff from the IoT runway. Last year, the company reported strong interest from the real estate and financial companies markets in Sweden and Italy (see link in third paragraph).

But that has not yet materialized into full-on IoT business.

An upcoming European ban on fluorescent tubes and bulbs could help more IoT sales, as end users might decide to go for IoT systems as they replace fluorescent with LED technology. LEDs Magazine will be reporting more on this in the coming weeks and months.

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.