Is Dyson's LED acquisition all about the internet of things?

Renowned British inventor Sir James Dyson, who invented something many of us thought we'd never live to see - an automatic hand dryer that actually dries your hands – is now moving in on the future of lighting, where he might well have the fledgling internet of things in his sights.

Dyson's engineering and design firm, Dyson Ltd., has acquired his son's LED light company, Jake Dyson Lighting, a Dyson spokesperson confirmed for Lux after reports first surfaced on Friday in the Financial Times (subscription may be required).

The spokesperson declined to reveal the price of the buyout. Dyson Ltd is a privately held company based in Malmesbury, England with manufacturing in Malaysia, widely known for James Dyson's invention decades ago of the bagless vacuum cleaner, and more recently for the AirBlade hand dryer.

Now, with the acquisition of Jake Dyson Lighting, Dyson picks up his son's upmarket £545 LED task lamp, called CSYS, which Jake has promoted for an inventive cooling system purported to extend the life of the LED light source to 37 years. Jake Dyson Lighting – the company's name stays the same – is also readying a suspended ceiling LED lamp called Ariel that uses the same cooling technology and which, according to the FT, will sell for £1,300 each.

'The Dyson business, not just me, got really keen to pull Jake in and to have the two businesses working together — developing technology for him and using his technology with ours,' Sir James told the FT.

That could well mean that the Dyson company is preparing to leverage Jake's LED technology into the internet of things (IoT) in which devices including digital lights (LEDs) communicate and respond to other devices and people via networked connections. IoT lighting in the home, office or outdoors can turn on and off and change brightness and colours in response to central or remote controls or to motion, music or a myriad of other prompts. When coupled with sensors can also communicate information about traffic, crowds, air quality and many other things.

The FT noted in a separate article that the elder Dyson's interests these days very much include information technology and the 'Internet of Things'.

For instance, James Dyson is developing a robotic vacuum cleaner, and has actually fallen behind US vendor and competitor iRobot -they're working on one called Roomba - in his efforts. (It's not hard to imagine his robotic hoover turning off the lights after it finishes cleaning the carpet in the living room. Anyone remember Rosie the maid in the 1960s Hanna-Barbera animated cartoon The Jetsons?).

'As it ventures into robotics and software, Dyson faces new competitors — the Roomba is just one example,' the FT noted. 'The “internet of things” — the capacity to link and control devices over networks — is drawing technology companies such as Google, Apple and Samsung into its orbit. Last year, Google paid $3.2bn to acquire Nest, which makes thermostats and fire alarms. That brings both potential — Dyson’s robots could work with others — and challenges.'

Net-connected lighting would be a good project to assign to a cadre from the 3,000 engineers and others  that the 67-year-old Dyson senior is hiring for a £250 million technology campus under construction in Malmesbury. He could even tap the brains at Imperial College in London, where last month he donated £12 million to launch the Dyson School of Design Engineering, scheduled to open in October. It would give them all something to work on - an internet of things.

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Photo is from Edgar Hoffman

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Story updated April 24 to include photo of Jake Dyson

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