Echelon, a venerable industrial controls company, has acquired Lumewave, an award-winning vendor of wireless controls for outdoor lighting, as one step in refocusing on a standards-based Internet of Things.
For a while we've been watching as vendors of industrial control and building automation systems catch the scent of opportunity in the space of lighting controls. Now another one of them has made an acquisition that signals a strong move toward lighting as a business focus.
Echelon Corp. was founded in 1988 by Mike Markkula, who had been the number three employee at what was then called Apple Computers; Markkula is still Echelon's board vice-chair. (Its admirable domain name, echelon.com, was registered 20 years ago this month, in the time when names could be had for the asking.) Echelon's early vision bore at least a passing resemblance to what we now call the Internet of Things -- devices connected in a network through which they are monitored and controlled.
Early on, Echelon tackled the building automation and industrial markets with its proprietary LonWorks platform, based on its own protocols, stacks, and ICs. Echelon expanded into power grids and also street lighting, using wired power line controls. Its wired solutions are popular in Europe, Asia, and South America, but less so in North America, because here we have evolved a taste for wireless.
More recently Echelon has been moving towards standards-based networking, bridging more modern technologies with its LonWorks. No demerits apply: The company was doing networking before the TCP/IP-based Internet was much more than a research playground. But the advance of technology has taken its toll on the business: Echelon reported increasing losses in the last two reporting quarters, and its stock is at historic lows.
In reporting its latest quarterly results earlier this month, Echelon announced that it was turning all its emphasis toward the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), withdrawing from the grid business. As we have been discussing for some time, lighting control is the spear-point of any advance on the IoT market, industrial or otherwise.
Echelon announced the acquisition of Lumewave earlier this week. Lumewave's product line is all about wireless control for outdoor lighting -- street lighting and pathway, parking lot, and campus lighting. The company's TOP900TL Wireless Control Module was named lighting controls product of the year in 2013 by Electrical Construction & Maintenance magazine.
Lumewave's sales are strongly concentrated in North America, so its wireless lighting control solutions are a nearly ideal complement to Echelon's market heretofore. Echelon will incorporate Lumewave's sales operation into its own, and also sell Lumewave's wares through its established channels.
The development is yet one more indication that the lighting controls market is going to get considerably more crowded before it settles out.
— Keith Dawson , Editor-in-Chief, All LED Lighting