Sensity: Lighting As A Key Component Of IoT

Continuing our examination of business cases for the IoT (Internet of Things), we became interested in Sensity, a company expert in embedding IoT capabilities in outdoor LED lighting.

How big a potential part of the IoT could such lighting solutions be? Joel Vincent, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Sensity explained it this way, “The best coverage provided by sensors globally, is cellphones, the second best is lights.”

The number of outdoor lights, throughout the world, the segment Sensity focuses on, is estimated at about 4 billion.

Driving the Sensity business model is the fact that these lights will be converted from traditional bulbs and fixtures to LED lighting, a conversion already under way, which Vincent estimates will be completed in about 10 years. These high-wattage outdoor lights are typically on streets, in malls, airports and other familiar locations.

Lighting As Part Of The IoT

So this gets to the very interesting IoT part, which is, the functionality that can be provided through what Sensity calls its Light Sensory Networks.

From a product point of view this network relies on two key “nodes” that are installed with the LED luminaires. (“Luminaires” are complete lighting units, including the lamps, – in this case LEDs – wiring and other component parts.)

The Sensity Core Node, which can plug into a standard socket on the LED fixture controls the power and light output of the luminaire. It also provides a number of sensors, as well as the ability to speak to a communications network, WiFi in most instances, which turns the lights into part of the IoT.

The standard package of sensors with the Core Node, in addition to the controls for the lighting and the power monitoring, include: temperature, pressure, humidity, accelerometer and motion. Many other sensor features are available.

Sensity also offers a Video Node, with two video cameras, which is controlled by the Core Node.

Operational Benefits Of Smart Lighting

The Light Sensory Networks offer a number of interesting potential benefits that Vincent discussed with us. As the rolling conversion of lighting to LEDs takes place, the sensory platforms can be installed at little incremental cost, compared to alternatives such as providing separate networks for IoT functionality. All lighting fixtures have access to power. (On the subject of costs, Vincent told us that when Sensity was providing the luminaires as well as the IoT sensor capability, they estimate that the IoT portion probably represented a 20-30% incremental charge on the cost of a project.)

Sensity points to numerous operational advantages for customers who use the platform. Foremost are probably energy management of the lights, and security of the premises, whether it is a street or parking area. In addition, however, they list the ability to monitor parking availability and traffic as well as location analytics, e.g., the behavior of people in the covered area.

The lighting networks have a mobile component, and the choice of transmission technology will be influenced by the physical characteristics of the network’s location. The Sensity system accommodates the various versions of WiFi, 802.11 a/b/g/n, which should be adequate for most urban environments. In suburbs or along highways, the choice might be cellular 3G. For streaming video transmissions, they will use cellular LTE or 3G.

Smart Cities And Cisco Involvement

The company recently attracted attention when Cisco led a $36 million funding round. The Cisco relationship appears to indicate an increased emphasis on the Smart City market. According to Vincent, Sensity has found support to date primarily in malls and airports. However, Cisco is quite interested in the Smart City concept and has an offering called Smart+Connected City Infrastructure Management.

Sensity does most of its marketing through partners, such as Cisco. Vincent notes that the Smart City sales cycle is typically a long one, which makes Cisco a valuable ally. Sensity has also announced lighting manufacturer Acuity Brands, and lighting design specialist Amerlux, as partners. Vincent states that they are also in discussions with GE, which was also one of the investors in Sensity’s latest financing round.

Sensity views its platform and network as a foundation for creation of dozens of apps that can build on information collected from lighting sites and made available through Sensity’s cloud and APIs. Vincent mentions an application sought by a company in Ohio that would use the video information to schedule snow plows during storms. The same video data, he points out can serve for a parking management app and many other types of uses.


Our take is that the lighting area can potentially be a reasonably substantial part of the IoT. The recent McKinsey/GSA report cited a forecast of 20-30 billion connected IoT devices by 2020. (“The Internet of Things” May 2015.) The outdoor lighting market should gather steam and could be a meaningful part of this total. Of course, there are lots of indoor lights in this world, estimated by some at about another 4 billion. While Sensity isn’t aiming at these, presumably its platform could ingest data from them, thereby enhancing the opportunity for value added apps.

The company, founded in 2010, claims to currently serve 19,000 lights and 250 customers. They have about 100 employees.

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Background photo by Fabrizio Sciami via Flickr