General Electric has acquired LED lighting startup Albeo Technologies, a company that fits neatly into GE’s focus on adding digital technologies to industrial equipment.
Boulder, Colorado-based Albeo makes LED-based lighting for industrial and commercial customers. GE bought the seven-year old company to fill out its LED lighting product line with Albeo’s fixtures, which can work in new buildings and are flexible enough to be retrofitted into existing spaces.
Compared to consumer LED bulbs that can change color and are operated from an iPhone, Albeo’s products are pretty dull. But commercial and industrial buildings, such as warehouses or data centers, are good candidates to use the latest in energy-saving lighting technology.
Albeo’s fixtures use efficient LEDs, rather than fluorescent lights or HIDs for buildings with high ceilings. But the efficiency of Albeo’s fixtures isn’t due entirely to replacing the light source. In some cases, Albeo’s fixtures use controls and sensors to optimize lighting and cut out waste. The company uses a wireless control system from Daintree Networks that allows lights to be set on a schedule from a PC and turn on and off based on occupancy sensors. Another company that combines controls and industrial LED lighting is Digital Lumens.
Yesterday, GE published a report on what it calls the Industrial Internet, the notion of equipping machines, such as gas turbines or medical devices, with sensors and controllers and then analyzing data to improve performance.
The report doesn’t specifically mention lighting but efficient lighting—done through computerized controls-–can often have a payback of a few years for businesses that spend a lot of money on lighting. In addition to commercial and industrial spaces, such as cold storage, Albeo also has plans to make LED-based troffers, the overhead lights used in office buildings, according to a report in LEDs Magazine.
In the world of U.S.-based clean-tech startups, GE’s acquisition of Albeo reflects some of the trends among investors. Rather than fund capital-intensive efforts in batteries or solar, clean-tech venture capitalists are focusing more on startups that require less capital and can bring a product to market within a few years.
Big corporations such as GE have also become vital source of capital and market expertise, partially filling a void left by venture capital firms that have stopped investing in energy-related startups.