ABI: Beacons are not just for retail; asset tracking, industrial uses expected to rise

If it seems as though beacons are everywhere, a new report from ABI Research is here to confirm that notion, saying total Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon shipments will comfortably exceed 400 million units in 2020.

Of course, it helps that Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Eddystone is starting to drive the market, particularly in non-retail environments, where new signals and features are particularly beneficial, according to principal ABI analyst Patrick Connolly. Eddystone is an open format for BLE beacons and available for anyone to use, as it supports multiple frame types for different use cases.

While much focus has been on retail applications, ABI Research believes that there is still a "huge opportunity" for beacons in a host of new markets, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), smart home, smart city, vending machines, personal asset tracking and industrial/enterprise. "Many of these markets are forecast to deploy BLE Beacons in much larger volumes than retail," Connolly told FierceWirelessTech.

Pure beacon shipment revenues are expected to break $1 billion this year, the research firm predicts. "Pure" beacon technology is any dedicated device that uses BLE for proximity-based services, irrespective of the standard used, such as iBeacon, Eddystone or something else, Connolly said.

Today, proprietary approaches aside, iBeacon is the predominant standard. However, Eddystone is expected to enable a new BLE beacon market, and that set of features will become standard in the verticals over the next three years, he said.

Google's entry into the beacon space in July did not come as a surprise to industry veterans. Rebecca Schuette, director of marketing at Swirl Networks, told FierceWirelessTech at the time that it's yet another stamp of approval that beacon technology is not going away, with Apple, Facebook, Twitter and now Google dedicating resources to it.

Citing the "huge and growing" market that proximity is driving, particularly tied to social media, the Wi-Fi Alliance recently announced its Wi-Fi Aware certification program. Wi-Fi Aware is based on technology developed within the Wi-Fi Alliance called Neighbor Awareness Network (NAN). Wi-Fi Certified Wi-Fi Aware was launched to validate technology that enables products to discover other devices, applications and information nearby before making a Wi-Fi connection.

In another sign of beacon proliferation, Gimbal in June announced the broad availability of its beacon firmware that enables virtually any BLE device to act as a Gimbal beacon. The company, which was spun out of Qualcomm last year, said adding Gimbal beacon technology to devices will enable retailers, hotels, venues, advertisers and out-of-home (OOH) networks to reach their mobile app users as well as to monetize their beacon networks by securely sharing access to the beacons with partners, sponsors or digital ad networks.

For more:
- see this MediaPost article
- see this release

Related articles:
Google joins Apple, Facebook, Twitter in beacon race
Wi-Fi Aware aims to discover nearby people, places and things
Gimbal wants to turn Bluetooth LE devices into beacons
Twitter-backed Swirl raises $18M to advance beacon technology
Wi-Fi technology goes beacon-like with upcoming Wi-Fi Aware feature