Verizon is the latest major player to make a push into the very nascent smart cities market with its acquisition of LED networking startup Sensity Systems.
Sensity has raised a total of $74 million. Investors include Cisco Investment, Acuity Brands, GE Ventures, Simon Venture Group, Almaz Capital, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Radar Partners and Silver Creek Ventures. The price of the acquisition by Verizon was not closed.
About half of Sensity’s funding came last summer, led by Cisco Investment, to scale its platform. Sensity’s solution caters to those that want to invest upfront in a networking solution that has applications that may not yet even have been imagined.
For example, investor Simon Property Group chose Sensity Systems to supply LEDs for some of its mall parking lots for energy savings. But Simon was also interested in the possibility of someday leveraging sensor nodes on the lights for everything from smart parking to measuring snowfall depth for more efficient plowing.
The startup’s nodes are integrated with outdoor LEDs from Amerlux and Acuity, but the nodes can also be retrofitted onto other fixtures.
Sensity already had the seal of approval from some serious players in the smart city movement, such as Cisco, which resells Sensity’s products and is using Sensity as its chosen network integrator in smart cities projects. The network of partners that Sensity has already built up was a selling point for Verizon, according to its statement.
Verizon’s smart communities division lies within its internet-of-things business, ThingSpace, which includes applications such as lighting, smart parking and traffic management. Verizon also made two acquisitions in fleet tracking services this year to join its IOT business.
With the acquisition of Sensity, Verizon appears to be taking a more active approach in owning smart city projects, especially those based on networked street lights, rather than simply cashing in as network traffic increases from smart city applications built on top of ThingSpace.
The competition for smart cities projects, many of which are pilots, is incredibly stiff between networking companies and lighting companies, such as such as Cisco and IBM, as well as metering companies like Itron and Silver Spring Networks, as well as LED companies including GE, Philips and Cree. Sensity has more than 40 installations to date.
The telecom giant has the advantage of already working with many cities and local utilities providing backhaul solutions for internal communications networks. Now it is looking to make the most of those relationships to find new revenue streams. Last year, for example, Verizon launched its Grid Wide Utility Solutions platform, a 4G LTE-enabled, cloud-hosted platform meant to connect “smart metering, demand response, meter data management and distribution monitoring and control” under one roof, according to GTM’s Jeff St. John.
The grid solution is aimed at smaller cooperative and municipal utilities. Now that Verizon also has a networked streetlight solution, it could enhance the revenue streams the company may be able to garner from those municipal customers.
Verizon may also get a leg up with existing municipal customers if it can help cross-sell the advantage of having a large network of connected devices across the various silos within any city. Few cities today are thinking holistically about developing the apps that sensored streetlights might offer, and many cities invest in LEDs for the energy savings without thinking about the future benefits that may come if they invest in additional sensoring today.
And of course, sensors will likely continue to get cheaper, making it tough for cities without robust business cases for specific applications, such as smart parking, to know exactly when and where to make the investment.
The Sensity acquisition is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2016.