Philips Lighting’s identity fades into Signify tomorrow

May 15, 2018
The famous lighting name will live on in products, but not on the corporate escutcheon, as the industry’s IoT era makeover continues.

The famous lighting name will live on in products, but not on the corporate escutcheon, as the industry’s IoT era makeover continues.

Ten, nine, eight, seven.... The countdown is on to when Philips Lighting officially ditches its famous corporate name. The new moniker, Signify, will officially take hold tomorrow, May 16.

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Philips announced the timing at 4:30 PM this afternoon Central European Time, soon after shareholders approved the rechristening at the company’s annual meeting at headquarters in Eindhoven.

“The annual general meeting of shareholders (AGM) adopted the proposal to amend the articles of association of the company to change its name from Philips Lighting N.V. to Signify N.V.,” Philips said in a short press release. “The company will start using the name Signify from May 16, 2018.”

At the stroke of midnight, the Philips lineage will symbolically pivot in a new direction, 127 years after father Frederik Philips and son Gerard Philips founded NV Philips’ Gloeilampenfabrieken to make carbon-filament light bulbs. The family made its mark. By 1912, large customers included the Tsar of Russia, and Philips would go on to become the world’s largest lighting company, which had 2017 revenues of €6.97 billion. Now it will continue in that spot under the Signify banner.

There is some solace for anyone having trouble letting go, as it might take another half a year or more to fully implement the new identity. Philips said it “expects the change to be implemented in all the countries where it is active by the beginning of 2019.”

“We change it the 16th, but as you can imagine this is not a matter of flipping a switch with the external presence we have,” a spokesperson told LEDs Magazine.

The group will also continue to use the Philips brand name on products, under an existing licensing agreement with Royal Philips, its former majority. Royal Philips spun off Philips Lighting in an IPO in May 2016, at first retaining a large share which it has steadily reduced to 18% as it focuses on health technology.

Philips Lighting has been planning to change its name for some time, and revealed a couple months ago that it had settled on the handle Signify.

The move is part of an industry shift in the LED and Internet of Things (IoT) era, in which lighting vendors are trying to connect lights to the Internet through wired and wireless schemes. The idea is to give users much greater control of lighting, and to also turn the lighting infrastructure into a data collection and analysis network that helps do everything from engaging shoppers in stores to improving traffic flow on highways to analyzing air quality, and much more.

The IoT won’t all just click into place from a business perspective, but the new name signifies a major shift for the former Philips Lighting, led by CEO Eric Rondolat. It’s a transition underway across the industry. (Photo credit: Mark Halper.)

“Ten years from now, I will talk about light as a language,” CEO Eric Rondolat said earlier this year while discussing the upcoming name change and embracing the tech zeitgeist.

So far, the shift has not been easy. Among other reasons, the lighting industry is to some extent competing against the information technology and communications industry — while also trying to partner with those companies. And lighting companies are working hard at changing their business model from selling hardware — lights — to selling services including data collection and analysis. They have little choice in making such a transition, because the same LEDs that make it feasible to offer digital services have also necessitated the move away from a hardware-based model given that LEDs last a long time and undermine the century-old replacement bulb business.

Philips Lighting recently reported a 16.5% drop in adjusted first-quarter earnings and 67% plunge in net income on an 11.2% sales decline, stated in the company’s last quarterly financial report as Philips Lighting. The next quarterly will come from Signify.

Other large lighting companies have also shown this year that the IoT road is rocky, as Osram cut its 2018 sales and earnings forecasts and Zumtobel in January slashed its fiscal-year 2018 profits forecast by as much as 70%.

GE is exiting the lighting business altogether, after itself going through a name change more than two years ago, renaming much of its lighting business as Current, powered by GE.

Still, the company about to be called Signify continues to take strides into the IoT. Just last week, for instance, it rolled out an app that lets managers control building and bridge façade lighting from smartphones. In recent months, it has tuned light recipes for growing roses, unfurled an IoT and data platform called Interact, stepped up its commitment to Li-Fi — the technology that transmits the Internet through LED light waves — and more.

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

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.