A Light Bulb Goes On, Over the Mall

A Light Bulb Goes On, Over the Mall

Among the many promises of the Internet of Things — a network of Wi-Fi-connected devices and equipment managed with smartphones — is the automation of everyday life, whether finding a parking space or discovering a discounted blouse at the mall or lighting the streets when day shifts to dusk.

But public lighting, it turns out, offers more than illumination.

Using a combination of LEDs and big data technology, public lighting is the potential backbone of a system that could use billions of fixtures to collect data about traffic congestion at an intersection or a consumer walking down the cereal aisle, to name just a couple of applications.

Sensity Systems, a small start-up that builds and manages smart-lighting networks, is announcing on Monday that it has attracted money and partnerships from a group of major businesses, including Simon Property Group, the leading mall developer; General Electric; Cisco; and Acuity Brands, a leading maker of LED lighting.

“We’re obviously excited about the intelligent environment future — that’s really what our lighting business is becoming: It’s morphing from a hardware to a software business,” said Beth Comstock, who leads the business innovations unit at G.E., which is seeking to sell its appliance division to Electrolux. “What gets us excited is, frankly, light is more than you can see.”

The investments — totaling about $36 million, roughly half of what the company has raised since its 2010 inception — are significant more for their sources than their amounts, said Hugh Martin, Sensity’s chief executive, and will help expand and bring to commercial scale what have thus far been mainly pilot projects. Sensity has been working with Cisco since 2014 and has its systems installed in locations as disparate as Newark; Bangalore, India; Adelaide, Australia; and Albertslund, a Copenhagen suburb.

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