Q&A - Neil Salt, managing director, IoT Division, Aurora Group

May 05, 2016 by John Hatcher
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Q&A - Neil Salt, managing director, IoT Division, Aurora Group

Neil Salt is a founding director of the Aurora Group and is currently responsible for developing its smart-lighting Internet of Things (IoT) division, which is widely seen as the future of lighting. Neil spent more than ten years as Aurora’s marketing and IT director, responsible for the Group’s global branding, marketing strategies, product development and product marketing teams. His passion lies in managing the collision of creativity and technology to create solutions for the Group's brands, products, user experiences and operational efficiencies.

How did you become involved in the Smart Buildings industry?

As a founding director at a lighting company, our products have always lived in the built environment. It was apparent to me that if we could take the most pervasive, installed element in buildings and make it ‘smarter’, then lighting could be a dominant player in this industry and offer Value beyond Illumination.

What excites you about the Smart Buildings industry?

It's all about algorithms! The Internet of Things (IoT) brings with it the opportunity for previously complex or impossible interactions between hardware and software technologies to be made less complex and more possible. Algorithms built on the data gathered from networks of intelligent endpoints such as lighting, heating and security will deliver insights for the built environment that we've never seen before. 

Are there any particular technologies that we should be aware of, but are currently under the radar?

'Gooee' has some of the most interesting technology for our industry. Commercially available next year, its combination of nano-active pixel sensing, Bluetooth communications and cloud based technology offers a full-stack hardware and software platform for lighting OEMs to connect to the IoT. They are supporting the next generation 'Bluetooth Smart Mesh' wireless networking (still under development and not to be mistaken for Bluetooth 4.0 or BLE). This will provide a secure, robust, scalable network that can engage with a multitude of devices. It is one of the reasons we are partnering with Gooee as an OEM to develop its technology into our luminaires.

What services does your company offer?

For over 30 years, the Aurora Group of companies, which has brands including Enlite and the recently rebranded Microlights, has designed, manufactured and distributed energy-saving lighting solutions for residential, hospitality, retail, commercial and industrial applications to customers in over 70 countries. The collision of LED and smart technologies has led us to create a new IoT division to provide intelligent, wireless lighting hardware and software solutions that negate the need for multiple independent networks of traditionally installed services such as lighting control, occupancy detection and beacon networks. Everything can be provided as a Service (EaaS) via a secure cloud using lighting as the essential network.

Are people aware of the regulations that they will need to comply with in the near future?

Regulation and compliance – especially internationally, is a huge challenge for companies operating in an industry that is moving as fast as smart buildings. I think people are partially aware, but it's tough keeping abreast of the ever-changing initiatives. Wherever possible, we have teams of people constantly reviewing the current legislation and ensuring our products meet all current requirements.

What are the benefits of a smart building?

Interoperability between systems and the insights we can gather from the data generated will offer up a multitude of benefits that include energy savings, personalised user experiences, enhanced building control, and a better understanding of how to optimise building usage for efficiencies in construction design. These are the benefits we already know, but in such a fast moving and developmental industry, there are no doubt a whole range of advantages that we cannot yet conceive!

Who has been the biggest influence in your career?

Initially, probably, my Grandad. When I was at university he loaned me the money to buy a computer and my passion for technology and creativity exploded from there. Having been at Aurora since 1999, the team and our CEO, Andrew Johnson, have also played a big part in my career path.

What is the question you are most often asked in your business life?

I love technology and I have a Fine Art Degree, so I do get asked: ‘Why Lighting?’

What are the best/worst things about your job?

Best – the diversity and creativity. My job has changed every six- to 12-months since we started the company and our industry has seen seismic shifts over the past 15 years that keep things fresh and interesting.

Worst – I miss the 'hands-on' creativity and design. It's symptomatic of an ever-expanding company but I love throwing my headphones on and cranking out designs in Photoshop or InDesign.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

If you wake up in the morning and you dread going to work – change what you're doing! I've tried to live by that mantra which my Dad taught me years ago. And get into Algorithms and machine learning!

What living person do you admire and why?

My wife for putting up with me, and in common with other interviewees in this space, Elon Musk. What he has achieved with Tesla, SpaceX and the Hyperloop project is going to fundamentally change the future for all of us.

Where would you most like to live?

I was fortunate to live in Florida for eight years, but honestly, I missed England too much and moved back. Hoping to retire in Ibiza.

What is your favourite book?

Delivery Happiness, by Tony Hsieh.

How do you relax?

Great food and red wine, TV/Films, Snowboarding and a spot of mountain biking!

What is your ideal holiday?

Snowboarding in Ibiza (if that were even possible!).

 

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