BLE for Retail

October 11, 2013, 9:50 am

By: Jordan Manser, Marketing Intern

In a recent blog post, we discussed Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and the expanding market. Estimote Inc., a technology start-up building a sensor-based analytics engagement platform, has developed what they like to call an operating system for physical locations—one they believe will change how people run businesses in the physical world and how consumers interact with real world products and venues.

Their product is called the Beacon. What looks like a colored gem that sticks to the wall, is a product that leverages BLE to report on current retail traffic and sends notifications to shoppers who have downloaded the app. This is a brand new platform where your environment interacts with you in ways previously unavailable to individual retailers and is done using your smartphone or tablet.

Laird Technologies does not own the rights to this photo, it belongs to its rightful owners.

The Beacon uses new Bluetooth Smart technology supported by all major mobile platforms including recently announced iOS7 with iBeacons. Put anywhere in any physical environment, Estimote beacons transmit context and location to all compatible phones and smart devices in range. With this technology, phones can automatically pick up the signal and trigger contextual actions designed by business owners. When App users walk into a venue or interact with products, they will receive personalized “micro-location” based notifications and actions. As they browse through the store, their phones will transition from one item to the next based on their proximity to the displays. Users can view photos, videos, reviews, personalized pricing, and even social updates just by being in proximity to the product. The goal is for customers to enjoy a seamless experience with more information about the products that interest them.

What’s more, the Beacon is not just beneficial to customers. Business owners will be able to access quantitative location data on visits and customer feedback and understand how people behave and interact with the products in their stores. Though this technology can be used in a number of different applications, the primary area of interest is physical retail stores. The majority of transactions worldwide are still made in physical locations, and more importantly, most consumers who shop in stores have smartphones.

In a Q&A with Tech Crunch, Estimote co-founder Jakub Krzych was asked: Why did you decide on this, of all things? The Internet of Things is pretty broad. Why shops and businesses? Krzych replied, “The Internet of Things is pretty broad, and yet it still lacks standards because of competing technologies like Zigbee, NFC, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. We believe there is a winner already, and it is called Bluetooth Low Energy.”

Estimote’s Beacon is just one example of unique and innovative ways to use BLE. The next few years will see an increase in Bluetooth Smart products and applications, which will stimulate the use of BLE devices in many new markets.  The rapidly expanding market generates a myriad of possibilities for device makers to leverage Laird’s robust Bluetooth product lines.