LED fixtures combined with networked sensors present some of the most intriguing and unpredictable paths for future technology development in the lighting industry. The appearance of a new partnership between lighting giant GE Lighting and a Boston-based startup company exploring systems to connect lighting and mobile devices, ByteLight, suggests more real-world applications of this kind of technology will soon be out in the wild so everyone can start to see what it can and can’t do. And whether customers respond favorably or not to the first uses.

The deal, announced ahead of next week’s Lightfair International lighting exposition in Las Vegas, where GE will be showcasing the technology, gives GE a path to the cutting edge of networked lighting. The systems being introduced involve LED lighting fixtures (the GE Lumination IS LED luminaire series, for starters) that communicate with shoppers’ smart devices while in-store, enabling retailers to provide new location-based services using GE LED infrastructure.

“ByteLight’s indoor location technology embedded inside GE LED fixtures will deliver high-value applications to retailers, providing the ability to understand the precise location of shoppers using an opt-in application powered by ByteLight on their smartphones and tablets,” the companies said in a press release. “The solution combines Visible Light Communication (VLC), Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and inertial device sensors, and supports any Android or iOS application on a smart device equipped with a camera and/or Bluetooth Smart technology. The comprehensive approach enables retailers to reach a broad number of shoppers across the largest area—from the parking lot to anywhere in the store there is LED light. As a result, retailers can achieve continuous ROI on their conversion to GE LED lighting while providing a strategic platform for the connected retail store of the future.”

To help retailers increase in-store traffic and basket size, GE and ByteLight are connecting smart LEDs to digital marketing platforms to deliver contextually relevant content and create social shopping experiences. For example:

  • Welcome repeat customers with personalized shopping lists as they approach the store front, then provide an easy-to-follow map to optimize their shopping time
  • Offer coupons and promotions based on shoppers’ position and direction in the aisle combined with shopping history
  • Present customer reviews, play product information videos and connect on-demand with virtual associates to make brand choice easier

“The use of GE’s LED fixtures for location-based services brilliantly demonstrates how LEDs can go beyond the traditional ROI of energy and maintenance savings to fundamentally change the way people shop by combining data with location,” said Jerry Duffy, General Manager, Global Product Management at GE Lighting. “ByteLight’s technology ensures a cost-effective approach for indoor location by not requiring additional hardware infrastructure beyond the lights themselves. We’re excited to show off the technology at LightFair.”