Its new SylSmart initiative mixes and matches IT partners and products with Feilo luminaires.
Feilo Sylvania is upping its smart lighting game, launching a technology integration program designed to mix and match different luminaires, sensors, chipsets, and other components from information technology partners, from smart lighting startups, and from its own lighting portfolio, LEDs Magazine has learned.
With its new SylSmart initiative, Feilo is acknowledging that IT companies are increasingly driving lighting technology and business as LED lamps and luminaires connect more and more to the Internet and to other intelligent networks.
“We see the smart lighting industry moving at an incredibly fast rate, with investments coming in at super-high levels, not only from the traditional lighting players, but especially from outside players, more linked to the IT industry, to Silicon Valley, and the London Silicon Roundabout community,” said Bastiaan de Groot, global director of strategy and new business development for London-based, Chinese-owned Feilo. “Standards are no longer set by the lighting industry, they're set by the IT industry. In the smart building, in the smart home environment, we are just one of the industries that play in the new world of the connected building. And we can therefore no longer set the standards within our own known space of the lighting industry.”
Feilo will use SylSmart to expand its smart lighting offerings to new customers, and also to serve existing smart lighting sites such as the headquarters building of Holland's NEN standards group. (Photo credit: Zonderland/Wikimedia).
The challenge facing all of the lighting industry is how to cooperate with the dynamic and influential IT industry without becoming subservient to it. As de Groot noted, “We don't want to become the OEM manufacturer of Google.”
Feilo's answer is to partner with IT firms while positioning itself as a “solutions provider” via SylSmart. The company will very much continue to develop luminaires, and will help customers choose the right technology for the smart lighting portion of installations. Rather than develop the technology in-house or commit to any one system, it is casting a wider net.
“We see ourselves in an advisory role to our clients in the smart lighting space, understanding their needs, understanding their requirements, and helping them select the right smart lighting platforms and solutions that we then can integrate into our luminaires,” de Groot noted.
“It's actually about understanding the value and the customer need and then trying to find the right technology for the customer's problem. We will pick and combine and integrate different solution components from different manufacturers and offer those to our clients as a solution, very much as a systems integrator. We will no longer be pushing specific technology solutions, but we will be pushing our knowledge of the understanding of how smart lighting can add value to our customers.”
De Groot added that “how the technology can actually create value to the customers is often not that well understood.” For example, data collected by smart lighting can help facilities managers save significant money by revealing how space in a building is underutilized and should be reassigned. Feilo has provided such a system to the headquarters of Dutch standards body NEN.
Feilo is kicking off the new SylSmart as many lighting companies continue to try to find the right combination of technologies and use-cases to move into the Internet of Things (IoT). SylSmart includes existing Feilo partners such as smart lighting firms Gooee and Casambi, and at least three new cohorts. De Groot declined to identify the three additions, except to say that one is a young Silicon Valley firm, one is a century-old company, and another is a Chinese OEM supplier.
The three newest collaborators specialize in automatic commissioning and decentralized controls of lights, whereas Gooee and Casambi serve other roles in the SylSmart scheme. Feilo will rely on Gooee for “pure play IoT” — chips and sensors that help track people, assets, and collect data — and on Casambi for Bluetooth wireless-based scene controls and settings. It already has some customers using Casambi. It has yet to install Gooee-enabled luminaires anywhere.
If all goes to plan, the stable of partners will expand.
“There are a number of new technology partnerships coming,” said de Groot. “It's growing. At any given point, we are talking to a dozen of different platform players, understanding their technology and understanding the value of our customers and announcing new partnerships when we complete that assessment.”
To bring SylSmart up to scratch, Feilo is adding smart lighting buffs to its salesforce.
“We recognize that we need a very new set of skills in our sales force to be able to sell smart light solutions, which is a very different sale from that of a normal lighting solution,” de Groot said. “More and more specialists are joining who can support this transformation.” His point echoed that made by Osram head of connected lighting Stijn Bröcker recently, who noted that selling IoT lighting requires a complete overhaul of business models.
Feilo is also spending more on smart lighting research and development, and on “what we would call proposition development so people can really bring together technology and market insights to invent the future,” de Groot said. The company will now serve existing smart lighting customers, such as NEN, through SylSmart.
SylSmart lifts off in the wake of Feilo's loss of technology from Organic Response (OR), the Australian smart lighting pioneer that entered financial administration earlier this year before Swedish lighting vendor Fagerhult acquired its key assets and decided to keep the technology within the Fagerhult orbit of companies and not to rivals such as Feilo.
The OR technology was especially well-known for supporting automatic commissioning and decentralized controls. Automatic commissioning makes it easier and less costly to install groups of lights that intelligently know when to switch on and dim. Decentralized controls ensure that if one light in a series fails, the others continue to operate and know when to change their state based on occupancy, daylight, and other factors. OR more recently also added IoT features that help track building use and assets.
Through its SylSmart partners, Feilo can now offer different combinations of those services.
“For some customers, the potential integration with the IoT is very important, so they will be looking for more of an IT-driven solution,” said de Groot. “But some of our other customers will say, 'What I'd really like is just the auto-commissioning and decentralized control and I'd just like that as a better lighting control system; I'm not that interested in the IoT solution, I want a much more price-driven solution.'”
Whatever IT components Feilo chooses for an installation, it will tend to embed them inside luminaires where they share the power supply and housing with the lights, thus making it easier to provide electricity and avoiding problematic batteries. (Osram has made a similar point, as illustrated by a smart lighting deployment in Switzerland where it is providing Bluetooth chips embedded in other vendors' luminaires).
In some installations, sensors could reside outside the luminaires.
“It's all about what makes sense,” said de Groot. “Often, it makes sense to put the sensors inside the luminaires, because it's so much cheaper than having its own power supply and its own mold. However, there are certain sensor functions that are simply not right positioned in the luminaire.” Those currently include temperature sensors, which with today's technology take more accurate room reading when mounted about half way up a wall.
But de Groot emphasized: “We are not going to become a sensor company. We are a lighting company at the core. We don't say that we are becoming a technology company. We are a lighting company.”
A lighting company smart enough to make smart lighting partnerships.
The new SylSmart program comes on the heels of Feilo's new financing initiative aimed at helping building owners afford conversions to efficient LED lighting as stricter European energy directives kick in. Meanwhile, industry watchers continue to ponder whether Feilo might make a bid for GE Lighting, the traditional portion of GE's lighting business.
MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist (firstname.lastname@example.org).