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November 25, 2015

Beacons: Bridging the App Gap

With the IoT evolution in full swing, it’s interesting to see applications, like Uber, that are part of the IoT ecosystem but don’t use any additional hardware. While I commend Uber’s success, I am more interested in an ecosystem when it develops around connecting the smartphone to IoT solutions.

Beacons are the latest augmented aspect of our reality, providing a method of transmitting identity to smartphones and tablets. They are being embraced as a way engage customers whether on a campus, at a conference or store, or within a transportation system. Since people are constantly looking at their phones, particularly when shopping, it only makes sense to use these phones to catch their attention.

You can think of IoT beacons as equivalent to navigation beacons like radar where they transmit their location and upon receiving the information the receiver sends a reply pulse to establish the relative position to transmitter.

IoT beacons cost between $20 and $40 and have a range of more than 150 feet, making IoT beacons ideal for retailers. In addition, the Bluetooth Smart technology being used with beacons does not require pairing, so a smartphone can be aware of several beacon objects at once. Each beacon has its own unique identifier as well as some additional parameters that can be used to associate to location and thing associated with the beacon. Since beacons are designed to only transmit their identifiers and general information, applications have to be used to discover and display the opportunity.

The application then is the bridge that uses the beacon’s transmission as a trigger to look up the action from within the application, or the Internet, or cloud. Augmented checkout with m-commerce, flash sales, navigation and social events, and product information and updates are some of the most popular ways retailers are trying to promote opportunities to the distracted customer. Apple’s iBeacon, Google’s Eddystone, and the Microsoft 10 are probably the best-known beacon solutions.

While Apple has built beacons into iOS7 as both transmitter and receiver, using the technology needs customers’ trust. For beacons to work, customers have to allow Bluetooth, GPS, and of course the application.

While Apple can point to 200 million beacon-enabled devices, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, and Qualcomm are looking to deploy beacons en mass. Business Intelligence estimates that by 2018 there will be 4.5 million beacons, with more than 75 percent being used in brick & mortar stores.

 Of the customers that accept beacon applications, 75 percent say the beacon app contributed to their purchasing decisions. Several beacon companies are already looking to find their niches in the marketplace. Often these niches have little to do with retail and more to do with public areas such as buses and airport terminals.

Accent Systems is a company, founded in 2007, which turns ideas into tailored electronic solutions to guide customers from product development to mass production. Its main fields are automotive products, Bluetooth devices (especially tablet and smartphone accessories), and all wireless technologies, like iBeacon and Eddystone (Physical Web).

Bealder allows users of its solutions to communicate with their customers in real time at the right time and the right place, and to analyze their own physical space. It designed a simple and functional platform online to manage beacons and remote devices, post marketing campaigns and, create... innovative geo-located customer scenarios.

BlueCats makes a really small beacon called the AA Beacon that runs on AA batteries. It features OTA upgradeable firmware and remote configuration updates. The company’s USB Beacon, meanwhile, can be powered by any USB socket such as one at a POS, on a digital screen, or on a computer or USB wall plug. This solution can transmit data, such as a transaction identifier, from the host device to mobile devices. It, too, is OTA configurable for remote management.

Bluesense Networks is a U.K. iBeacon hardware and software manufacturer. It says it offers the biggest range of hardware beacons available worldwide and offers a proximity engagement cloud-based platform that helps enterprises to collect, analyze, and organize data coming from proximity sources.

BlueUp is a startup that develops and provides solutions based on Bluetooth Low Energy and is integrated with the mobile. It provides a platform — that includes hardware devices, called beacons, and software components — for indoor micro-localization based on iBeacon technology. BlueUp is the only Italian company that designs and manufactures Apple-certified iBeacon devices.

Estimote Beacon is a small computer. Its 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 CPU is accompanied by an accelerometer, a temperature sensor, and what is most important — a 2.4GHz radio using Bluetooth 4.0 Smart, also known as BLE or Bluetooth Low Energy. The greatest advantage of Bluetooth Smart over the previous iterations of BT technology is how energy efficient it is. Thanks to that, and to a lot of work Estimote’s engineers put into power management, Estimote Beacons can last more than 3 years on default settings on a single CR2477 battery.

Gelo’s Bluetooth beacon offers proximity awareness — both indoors and outdoors — with a greater precision than both GPS or Wi-Fi networks can offer. Its beacons comply with the iBeacon specification. Gelo’s Cloud Platform is a secure management system that gives users control over every aspect — whether it’s battery life, location tracking, or analytics — of their beacons

Gimbal (Qualcomm) beacons with iBeacon technology, soon supporting Eddystone, are the most widely deployed Bluetooth Smart beacons in the world, according to Gimbal. The company talks about its innate, stringent quality standards inherited from its Qualcomm heritage, and says its beacons feature unmatched engineering, battery life, and security.

Glimworm says it wants to make the web fast, easy, and affordable for everyone. It began on this journey with Firefly, its own web content management system, building websites and enabling organizations across industry sectors. Over the years it has built a large client base from the very small to the very large who all want a partner they can trust to help them communicate in a rapidly changing world.

GPShoppper says it offers the only mobile platform with more than 200 features including commerce, push notifications, beacons, mobile payments, and loyalty integrations, backed by a full CMS and multichannel analytics.

inMarket runs what it says is the world’s largest mobile shopper marketing platform, and has built what it calls the world’s largest network of beacon-enhanced shopping apps. By reaching the No. 1 buying demographic — often referred to as the lost generation — inMarket’s model delivers engagement when it matters most and dramatically lifts branded purchases. Clients such as Coca-Cola, Kraft, Levi’s, Nestlé, and Procter & Gamble have launched hundreds of in-store campaigns with inMarket. M2M beacon-capable apps include CheckPoints, Epicurious, List Ease, Key Ring Rewards, and more.

Kontakt.io was founded in 2013 as a solution to help the visually impaired navigate public spaces more easily, and experience cultural wonders with the same depth as anyone else. Today it is a global provider of beacon hardware and software services for all mobile platforms. The company says it has opened a new frontier of proximity context technology with beacons that is still yet to be fully discovered and embraced.

Lighthouse.io is a cloud software platform that integrates with mobile apps to provide location awareness, deliver targeted content and interactions, and generate real-world analytics.

Nomi is the result of a 2014 merger of Atlanta-based Brickstream Corp. and New York-based Nomi Technologies. With more than 140,000 Brickstream sensors in use in more 60 countries, Nomi is the market leader in retail store analytics. Founded in early 2000, Brickstream develops the most advanced and most accurate stereo video sensors in the world. Today, the Brickstream family of retail analytics sensors includes the 3D+, LIVE, 3D and 2D. The Nomi merger added Wi-Fi and iBeacon sensors to the current family of sensors.

Paypal Beacon either handles requests directly or passes them on to the PayPal servers. The server provides a response to be sent back through the response entry. In short, the beacon acts as a communication bridge for requests that it cannot service itself. This allows PayPal Beacon to handle sophisticated queries from the phone — fetching information about a particular location, making requests to check in, getting a check-in response, or receiving a payment notification.

Pinpoint’s mobile marketing platform uses beacons to create personalized in-store experiences. With Pinpoint’s software, businesses can easily create contextually aware mobile promotions and content to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Pinpoint’s technology brings web-based personalization tools to brick & mortar businesses. Businesses simply set up beacons at points of interest, then integrate Pinpoint’s technology into an existing mobile app to start transforming the way consumers interact with their store or venue. Using Pinpoint’s mobile CMS and analytics suite, businesses can track and reward brand loyalists, receive real-world attribution, and increase customer lifetime value.

Radius Networks is a provider of mobile proximity technologies used by app developers, major retailers, restaurant chains, sports complexes, and other brick & mortar operators to generate customer traffic analytics and drive customer engagements. Its technologies leverage the wireless signals of mobile devices, such as Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi to detect when visitors are in close proximity to important points of interest and use this information to provide a better understanding of customer shopping patterns and behaviors and to enable customer engagement in more meaningful and relevant ways.

Roximity is a location-based advertising platform that enables retailers, brands, and venues to interact with nearby consumers. Roximity offers beacon hardware, a robust SDK, and a full suite of targeted mobile messaging and analytics tools that brands like the Brooklyn Nets, Ford, and Mondelez use to drive exceptional results.

Sensorberg GmbH, which is based in Berlin, develops and provides a beacon-based, platform-independent, all-in-one proximity campaign solution. The Sensorberg cloud-based management platform is the company’s core and enables proximity campaigns to be planned, designed, and managed. Sensorberg provides open source SDKs that can be incorporated into any app, rendering it beacon compatible. It supports all beacon standards, including Apple’s iBeacon, Google’s Eddystone, and the Microsoft 10 standard. Along with the Sensorberg Management Platform, the Sensorberg Proximity Network enables every user to securely build and monetize its own infrastructure by app- and beacon-sharing.

Shopkick is the most used U.S. shopping app, connecting shoppers to physical retail. It’s partnered with major retailers and brands to provide deals and rewards to shoppers at the store. Its partners include Best Buy, JCPenney, Kraft, Macy’s, P&G, Target, Unilever, and many others. Since Shopkick was founded in 2010, it’s grown from five people in a basement to a vibrant community of content curators, designers, engineers, partnerships managers, and product managers.

Signal360 (formerly Sonic Notify) is an in-store mobile notification platform for real-time user engagement. Signal360’s platform uses cross-platform patented inaudible-sound mobile notification technologies as well as the emerging BLE standard (full support for iBeacon and Android BLE) to wirelessly enable retail locations to interact with customers through existing consumer mobile apps, retailer-specific mobile apps, and/or custom created apps. Its beacons broadcast both standard Bluetooth and its proprietary, patented audio signals.

Signul.io is a personal beacon system that simplifies things by automating everyday activities. People can use beacons to create proximity zones in their home, office, car, or anywhere else they perform repetitive tasks. The Signul App detects these zones and triggers events when users enter or exit them. Reactions are based on Signul zone entries or exits and users can choose to make them active only during certain periods of time. Users can also control whether they fire once, or every time those users enter or leave a Signul zone.

Smart Beacon is a team of passionate geeks who want to provide the latest technology to the world. SmartBeacon is a product of iP Stand, a French digital events agency.

Swirl Whether organizations are adding beacons to an existing e-commerce system or searching for an end-to-end beacon marketing platform, Swirl can help. Its modular design and open architecture allow users to create highly tailored and fully integrated beacon marketing solutions. Macy’s is a customer; it is aggressively deploying beacons throughout its stores and adding it to its online ordering process.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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