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Illustration 60886103 / Kheng Ho To / Dreamstime
Illustration 60886103 Kheng Ho To / Dreamstime
60886103 / Kheng Ho To / Dreamstime
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Acuity Brands Acquires ByteLight to Add Indoor Location and VLC Capabilities

April 24, 2015

Acuity Brands announced a move to bolster its abilities to offer indoor location services via its luminaires, with an agreement to acquire ByteLight Inc., Boston. Terms weren’t disclosed other than to say Acuity paid cash and acquired certain assets, including ByteLight’s patent portfolio and all other intellectual property rights.

Acuity said in a release that the combination of ByteLight’s technology with Acuity’s visible light communication (VLC)-enabled drivers and LED lighting platforms will provide retailers with a method of delivering digital content to shoppers and associates within a retail store in an effort to increase customer loyalty and revenues while also reducing operating expenses.

ByteLight pioneered the use of VLC and Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) technologies in combination with smartphone apps and cloud services in a bid to transform LED luminaires into indoor location waypoints. These waypoints provide shoppers with indoor navigation and also allow retailers the capability to create a more connected, personalized, and engaging shopping experience for their customers by communicating specific and targeted digital content to a shopper’s smartphone.

“Incorporating ByteLight’s indoor positioning technology with Acuity’s digital lighting platform is a natural fit as we work closely with leading retailers to help shape retail shopping in a connected world,” said Steve Lydecker, Acuity Brands Lighting senior vice president of applied integrated solutions. “Combining the ByteLight BLE beacons and platform solution with the existing pinpoint accuracy available with Acuity Brands’ indoor positioning technology will allow our customers to quickly recognize the transformational value associated with precise indoor positioning.”

The move toward making lighting systems that offer more than just lighting has been a major focus for new product introductions over the past year and is expected to be a dominant topic at next month’s Lightfair International conference.

The key innovation is that LED lighting generally includes a microcontroller, which can modulate the light using VLC principles to encode signals that can be received by smartphone cameras to send customers information. For example, with a lighting-based sensor system in a grocery store, a shopper could request help finding the breadcrumbs and be directed there by the sensor network, and receive recipe suggestions for meatloaf or breaded tilapia along the way. Beyond help for shoppers, VLC systems offer the capability to monitor all customer behavior inside a store, giving retailers a way to analyze and improve the shopping experience they offer.

ByteLight has a number partnerships allowing Acuity competitors such as GE Lighting and Solais Lighting to integrate its technology in luminaires to provide indoor positioning capabilities for retail customers. Acuity didn’t address whether those partnerships will be affected by the acquisition.

Acuity, which has a major presence in commercial lighting through its myriad brands including Lithonia, Holophane, Hydrel, Peerless and Winona, has been pursuing smart lighting systems for awhile, including a recent partnership with Sensity Systems. Acuity also is positioning to offer financing for LED retrofits through a partnership with Key Equipment Finance.