Nokia leads $23 million investment in intelligent LED firm

Your multiple choice pop-up quiz for the day:

A company long associated with mobile phones and the internet announces a major investment in a startup firm that it heralds as 'the embodiment of the connected enterprise.' Is the start-up: a) a handset/tablet computer vendor; b) a network server developer; c) some sort of software outfit, maybe a newfangled app maker; d) an internet search firm or perhaps a mobile network operator;  e) a lighting company.

This riddle is brought to you by Lux, so you have probably correctly guessed 'e.' Meet the beneficiary of a $23 million round of venture financing: Digital Lumens, a six-year old US company that specialises in intelligent, sensor-equipped LED lighting systems for industrial, warehouse and commercial use.

The leader of the the investment round? Nokia Growth Partners (NGP), the venture capital arm of Finland's Nokia, which remains a major player in the mobile networks equipment business industry after completing the sale of its handset business to Microsoft earlier this year.

NGP focuses its investments on companies that enhance the mobile environment, including those that boost the 'connected enterprise', where it clearly sees potential inDigital Lumens.

'From consumer to industrial markets, the connected world presents new opportunities for efficiency, insight, comfort, safety, and operational intelligence – all delivered via next-generation lighting systems,' said Tom Pincince, CEO of Digital Lumens, in an NGP press release. 'Our platform gives customers the most direct access to enterprise-scale building and energy intelligence – through the lens of their lighting network. With deep roots in traditional industrial infrastructure and strong commitments to the Internet of Things, our investors see Digital Lumens as the embodiment of the connected enterprise, and are excellent partners for our continued technology and market expansion.'

Those investors now include Nokia, which led a 'Series C' group that also included Aster Capital and Goldman Sachs, as well as previous Digital Lumens backers Flybridge Capital Partners, Black Coral Capital and Stata Ventures.

The NGP press release praised Digital Lumens for 'enterprise-scale intelligent LED lighting' that monitors lighting use and need and that an control lighting levels accordingly. It also hinted that the combination of sensors and lighting networks could also help gather data about and drive other building operations, like heating and cooling system. Greentech Media suggested the system could also help monitor building assets.

'Bringing the concrete value of the Internet of Things (IoT) to business operations, the Digital Lumens system is a wireless network of intelligent LED lights that gathers sensor and power meter data for ongoing operational insight, and a broad range of building intelligence,' the NGP release stated. 'Digital Lumens’ Intelligent LED Lighting System leverages the Internet of Things to bring building and energy intelligence to enterprises worldwide. This approach, based on a strong patent portfolio, is driving widespread adoption, with deployments doubling year over year.'

The investment marked one of the latest twist in the ongoing convergence of internet, communications, IT and lighting. In another recent telecommunications example, Deutsche Telekom added a feature to its home systems app that allows users to control Philips LED lights via a smartphone. Many ideas are for smart street ligthing-based urban networks are hatching around the world, including near Copenhagen and in Los Angeles.

Even automobile companies are entering the mix, as BMW recently unveiled a combination streetlight/car charger.

On a related noted, Ramzi Haidamus, president of Nokia technologies last week said that it hopes to start licensing its brand outside of phones, 'in the areas that we can and the areas where the brand is relevant,' The Verge reported.

Now for another quiz: How soon before we see Nokia branded lighting? Answer down the road.

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Photo is from Nokia