Verizon buys LQD WiFi to expand its IoT strategy into “smart cities”

Verizon today has made another acquisition to build out its IoT business: the carrier has purchased LQD WiFi, a developer of outdoor interactive displays that provide WiFi connectivity along with news, emergency alerts and community information. They also act as sensors collecting crowd, weather and other data.

The financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed. LQD WiFi, based out of New York, had raised only $1.73 million in funding from unknown investors. Founder and CEO Randy Ramusack is a Microsoft veteran, having worked as the CTO of Microsoft Switzerland and the CIO of Microsoft UK, among other roles and places.

LQD’s main service is called Palo, a kiosk-style structure that serves both as a WiFi station as well as a place for people to interact with information on the Palo itself. In this regard, it competes against the likes of LinkNYC, operated by CityBridge (Qualcomm, CIVIQ Smartscapes and Intersection, backed by Google’s Sidewalk Labs). Link already has a small network of devices in New York City and earlier this year announced it was also coming to London (but has yet to go live).

While Link will work with BT in the UK and taps into Google’s own WiFi efforts in the U.S., LQD will give Verizon its own entry point into providing smart city and connected consumer services.

“We designed Palo, from day one, to be part of the community, offering Wi-Fi, public safety features and a unique, interactive community engagement platform,” said Ramusack in a statement. “Palo’s human-scale touch screen lets users explore and connect with the local community creating multiple ways to engage, through an innovative, purposeful and curated experience.”

It looks like Palo kiosks are planning to be piloted in at least one metro area, New Rochelle in New York.

“We want New Rochelle to be an ideal place to live and work. We recognize that a healthy future depends increasingly on robust digital infrastructure, based on cutting-edge technology that can connect residents and businesses alike in a friendly, accessible way. Our partnership with LQD will accomplish all of these goals,” said New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson.

This is the fourth acquisition this year made by Verizon to build up its Internet of Things business, which is a complement to Verizon’s other acquisition strategy based around consumer-focused media companies (among those, it’s in the process of buying Yahoo and last year acquired AOL, which owns TechCrunch).

Other acquisitions in IoT have included Sensity Systems to add LED light controlling technology; telematics company Fleetmatics for $2.8 billion in August; and Telogis for more connected car technology.

In both the case of the media acquisitions and these more enterprise-focused B2B investments, Verizon is essentially pursuing the same strategy: the company wants to build out more services to offset declines in more traditional, legacy areas of its business, including fixed-line services.

Verizon has the money to invest in exploring what might form the next generation of its business: Verizon last year reported $132 billion in revenues and has a steady flow of sales from a wireless business with 113.7 million customers.

And the idea seems to be to continue investing in and developing these, presumably as a way of Verizon both extending its own WiFi footprint, and of course its wider advertising network and way of collecting interesting (anonymised) data that could be used to grow that business.

“LQD’s Palo technology hubs capture Verizon’s vision of delivering citizen engagement experiences by connecting people with their communities while providing critical security, transportation and wayfinding solutions as well as Wi-Fi capabilities,” said Mike Lanman, SVP, Enterprise Products and Internet of Things at Verizon, in a statement.

“This transaction uniquely positions us to utilize our unmatched infrastructure, platforms and network at scale to deploy elegant and engaging community technology hubs that connect, inform, inspire and support people where they live, work and play.”