GE Selling Intelligent Environments Business, Current to Private Equity Firm

GE reported a proposed deal to sell its intelligent environments business, Current, powered by GE, to American Industrial Partners, a New York-based private equity firm. Current, powered by GE, a three-year-old startup, recently began introducing industrial LED lighting with the company’s environmental sensing technology embedded.

Current’s latest product release, for example, is an LED-based replacement for a 1000 W HID lamp. Aside from the extremely high output, the lamp incorporates Current’s IoT linking and environmental sensing technology (Ref: Coverage).

“The firm’s deep expertise in operations and engineering, combined with its highly successful track record of industrial business investments, would help us accelerate Current’s growth,” said Maryrose Sylvester, Current’s president and CEO.

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“We look forward to partnering with the AIP team to further establish Current as a leader in the rapidly growing [Internet of Things] lighting space.”

GE Launched Current

GE launched Current three years ago. For this startup launch, GE combined some of its energy and digital management assets to form an in-house startup. The startup company has been developing tools to reduce electricity consumption for customers by installing smart LED lighting from GE along with controls technologies from Current at their facilities.

The GE-made LED lights employ embedded sensors from current that can monitor energy usage, room temperature, detect movement, and observe and measure other environmental factors including sound and air quality. The data from the sensors is analyzed and all of the sensors and lights are linked with control and management software. This control and management software can recognize patterns in light and HVAC usage, for example, and make recommendations for energy savings based upon these insights.

In this way, Current asserts that its sensing technology helps factories, stores, offices, and even cities lower their energy bills and operate smarter.

Current Customers

Current boasts that its customers include the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, JPMorgan Chase, and General Motors, as well as the cities San Diego and Jacksonville. In April, GE reported that its LED lighting along with its environmental sensing technology and IoT software (which was eventually transferred to the startup Current), helped Walmart save more than $100 million in energy costs over a ten-year-period. This savings came from the installation of about 1.5 million GE LED fixtures across 6,000 stores, parking lots, distribution centers and corporate offices in 10 countries.

Also, in San Diego, Current engineers have been working to install sensors in 3,200 of the city’s 14,000 new GE LED fixtures.

According to GE, coders can use GE software to write apps for the system, slice and dice the data, and come up with insights for numerous applications, some of which may not have been even thought of yet. The company gives the examples of helping improve parking, assisting with traffic control, and even alerting police to the sounds of possible crimes.

Earlier this year, Current also designed a smart lighting system for a giant indoor farm in England the size of a football field. (Ref: Coverage).

“Smart LEDs are already being used to grow produce inside indoor farms, mimicking sunrise and sunsets for horticulture purposes,” Melissa Wesorick, LED platform leader for Current, said. “They could even potentially be used as disinfectants by shining microorganism-killing ultraviolet-wavelength light across hospital surfaces.”

Current says that the proposed transaction is expected to close in early 2019, subject to customary closing conditions, regulatory approvals and consultation processes where required under local law. However, Current and AIP didn’t disclose the financial conditions of the deal.