Latest from Industry

Illustration_60886103 / Kheng To To / Dreamstime
Iillustration_60886103 / Kheng Ho To / Dreamstime
Illustration 60886103 / Kheng Ho To / Dreamstime
Image via Sensity
Sensity Systems concentrates on connectivity with cameras and sensors for smart cities applications.

Phone Co. Eyes Lighting for Its Connections: Verizon Agrees to Buy Sensity Systems

Sept. 23, 2016
The move by Verizon is consistent with the changes going on in the lighting and technology markets as connectivity takes the lead said Sensity board member Bernie Erickson.

Verizon Communications, New York, is making a move into the edges of connected lighting systems. The wireless phone giant signed an agreement to acquire Sensity Systems Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., a maker of a data-gathering network platform that uses LED lighting as its foundation. Terms were not disclosed.

Verizon is seeking to add a comprehensive suite of smart city solutions enabled by its ThingSpace internet of things (IoT) platform, said a release. Sensity Systems capitalizes on conversions to LED lighting — a process that will affect 4 billion lights worldwide over the next few years, said the release — to create a high-speed, sensor-based, multi-service IoT platform. Sensity’s demonstrations of the intelligent monitoring and control made possible by its technology have been a highlight at recent Lightfair International trade shows. The demonstrations showed how the system’s sensors and cameras can track individuals and alert security to possible threats such as abandoned luggage. An early installation of its system at Newark Liberty International Airport in 2014 gained the company national attention both for the system’s capabilities and concerns raised about privacy.

Sensity has gone on to establish itself as one of the companies to watch in the race to combine lighting with data networks and build new capabilities on those combined technologies. Sensity now has 42 smart city installations across the globe supplied through its ecosystem partners that have enabled facility and municipal lighting owners to link energy efficiency and cost savings to the improvement of business goals such as public safety, parking control, asset management and analytics.

Bernie Erickson, regional V.P. for the Northeast region at Facility Solutions Group and a member of the Sensity Systems board of directors, told Electrical Marketing the move by Verizon is consistent with the changes going on in the lighting and technology markets as connectivity takes the lead.

“It’s funny, it’s not just about ‘lighting systems’ anymore. It’s really about the IoT, and connected systems, and smart cities,” Erickson said by e-mail. “Sensity started out making lighting fixtures to allow for proof of concept, but then exited that business and really focused strictly on the nodes and communication systems. It’s the merging of IT and lighting control and connected devices. The lines are not clearly drawn anymore, which is why Cisco and Verizon are interested in lighting, and Acuity and GE are interested in networks!”

Seeing a company such as Verizon enter the lighting space indicates a possible future direction in the lighting industry’s evolution, said Bill Attardi, a longtime lighting industry executive and now owner of Attardi Marketing. “It think this is all rooted in one thing: Lighting is not about illumination anymore.”

Lighting is now seen as a core connector to every device in the home or office, Attardi said. Verizon’s historical role as a communications company gives it the infrastructure to make “lighting as a service” a more common reality in the world. “Sensity was a little bit in the fixture business but really it’s all about networking. Verizon wants to sell monthly network service, so just like you pay for the cable and phone, they can put a lighting system in, you don’t have to pay for it all, we’ll just charge you every month the same way we do now. Verizon has a terrific vehicle for cash flow where they get paid every month automatically, it goes from your pocket to their pocket, and you don’t even know. And I think that’s where lighting is going.”

Verizon’s vision as indicated in its release also points to larger-scale applications. “Sensity is a leading provider of IoT solutions for smart communities with a strong ecosystem of partners, and this transaction will accelerate the deployment of large-scale implementations that will drive the digital transformation of cities, universities and venues,” said Verizon’s Mike Lanman, senior vice president - Enterprise Products and IoT, in the release. “Verizon is uniquely positioned through its infrastructure investments at the network, platform and application levels to provide holistic solutions that empower communities to address their most pervasive challenges.”

Verizon has already developed an array of connected-intelligent solutions including parking, lighting, traffic management and security that improve livability, resiliency and public safety for local communities. The company’s Smart Communities organization, which is a part of its IoT business, is also simplifying the creation of IoT applications through ThingSpace.

Sensity Chairman and CEO Hugh Martin pointed to the growth of cities as a key opportunity. “Rapid urbanization is putting a huge strain on city services globally, coupled with inefficiencies caused by an aging infrastructure that currently supports critical functions, such as fire and emergency services, public transportation, lighting, sewer and sanitation systems,” Martin said. “Sensity realized early on that IoT could be the key to breaking out of this dilemma. We have become the leader in the space by creating a visionary smart city IoT platform and forming a powerful ecosystem of technology partners. With Verizon, we look forward to delivering IoT connected systems on a massive scale to change how cities and communities operate around the world.”