A resurgence is afoot in the LED industry’s efforts to market IoT lighting, and no company exemplifies the renewal more than Zumtobel. The Austrian outfit which once proclaimed it would be “a Google” of connected illumination, only to all but vanish from the scene, is trying again.
Zumtobel’s rekindled interest emerged a few months ago, when the Dornbirn-based company announced a set of technologies that turns its Tecton batten-style LED luminaires into a tracking system to help users keep tabs on physical assets and to monitor the movement of people within a facility.
The “High Accuracy Positioning” (HAP) system attaches sensors and Bluetooth transceivers to the Tecton fittings and to goods. It collects data which it can analyze with software called Zumtobel Industry Analytics.
The intent is to provide insights on how to improve operations like logistics, inventory, and workflow.
“This data-driven approach enables monitoring, analysis, and documentation of stock levels, goods movement, and tool/equipment location,” Zumtobel said in announcing HAP. “These insights facilitate a comprehensive understanding of industrial processes, improving product quality and minimizing downtime.”
A version tailored for the retail trade allows shop managers to observe the interactions between in-store customers and the merchandise. The software then suggests ways to improve the layout of the store.
The idea of HAP is not new. It is a form of IoT (Internet of Things) lighting, an endeavor in which vendors press the lighting infrastructure into double duty as networks that collect and analyze data for myriad benefits to end users.
But as LEDs Magazine has chronicled, the IoT concept has been slow to catch on over its decade of existence. In the case of Zumtobel, progress got so slow that the company virtually fell off the IoT radar.
When Zumtobel announced HAP last July, it was the first IoT-related press release that LEDs could recall receiving from the firm for several years. The company had been actively trialing IoT in 2018 under then-CEO Ulrich Schumacher and under CEO Alfred Felder who replaced him that year, with installations at Nestlé headquarters in Vevey, Switzerland, at a large E.Leclerc hypermarket in Langon, France, and at a modern Frankfurt office building, among others.
But news has been thin since then. The silence had been striking from a company that started out with big ambitions. Back in 2014 in the early heady days of the IoT, Schumacher had envisioned Zumtobel “developing increasingly...into a software supplier, a kind of Google of the lighting industry”.
We asked the company if HAP, in effect, marks an IoT relaunch; we also asked for an update on early users such as Nestlé and E.Leclerc.
“Zumtobel has indeed been involved in IoT and smart lighting initiatives in the past, including projects with E.Leclerc and Nestlé,” said Hossam Haridy, senior product manager, IoT & digital solutions, told LEDs. “While I cannot provide specific details on these previous initiatives, I can confirm that we are committed to advancing our IoT efforts and are continuously exploring opportunities in this space.”
We’ll take that as a “yes” to the relaunch.
Is now the time?
But, after a decade of slow IoT growth across the industry, why should now be any different?
“Indeed, IoT lighting adoption has had its challenges, but now is an exciting time for several reasons,” Haridy said. “Firstly, technology has advanced significantly, making IoT lighting solutions more robust, reliable, and user-friendly. Secondly, there is a growing awareness of the benefits that smart lighting, combined with location technology like HAP, can bring in terms of energy savings, operational efficiency, and user experience. Lastly, as the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the demand for IoT solutions that enhance the functionality and sustainability of buildings is on the rise.”
The answers are a mix of old and new observations. But Haridy is resolute about HAP’s advantages.
“The primary benefit of location technology, as integrated into HAP, is precise and real-time positioning,” he said. “It allows for a wide range of applications, including asset tracking, space optimization, and indoor navigation. This level of accuracy empowers businesses to enhance efficiency, improve safety, and create more dynamic and responsive environments.”
Zumtobel can point to users, too, installing HAP in the three tunnels of the Granitztal tunnel chain on the Koralmbahn railway between Graz and Klagenfurt in Austria.
The Zumtobel relaunch also comes at a time when other vendors, such as Glamox and Fagerhult are reinvigorating their IoT push. Signify recently took its “beyond lighting” push literally beyond lighting.
Some observers believe that Europe’s ban on fluorescent lighting will catalyze IoT interest, as end users consider IoT while replacing fluorescent lighting with LED. The extra energy savings that IoT schemes can provide are also rising in importance.
Watch for more IoT stories soon from LEDs Magazine.
MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).