Beacon startup Area360 raises $3.5M, says it's not targeting retailers

While a lot of focus in the beacon industry has centered on deployment in retail settings, a startup that just closed a $3.5 million Series A round of financing says it's not your run-of-the-mill beacon technology provider.

Emirates Airlines is one of Area360's customers.

Area360, which raised its Series A round with the help of lead investor Madrona Venture Group, specializes in large venues such as airports, hospitals and museums, where it wants to enable non-technical managers to roll out location-based services like beacons without a lot of hassle. The company's products already are used by more than 400 customers worldwide, including Emirates Airlines, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

"We're enabling folks to kind of harness the power of both content and delivery and location technology," such as beacons, Wi-Fi and GPS to create seamless outdoor to indoor experiences, said Nathan Peterson, head of global marketing. In some airports in the United States, Area360's STQRY app is being used to highlight the art that is displayed throughout the airports.

"We're kind of on the back end," working out opportunities to further enhance the experience with location-based services (LBS). It's primarily based on iBeacon but it can pull in Wi-Fi and GPS to enhance the experience, particularly as someone walks inside and out of venues. Other applications at airports might be finding the fastest security line for a flight or directions on how to get to a gate.

STQRY is one of the products where the company got its start. It's basically a CMS/content management platform and mobile solution; by downloading the app, users will find hundreds of arts and cultural organizations that use it to bring the visitor experience to life. It's got audio, video and now location-based experiences as well.

Because Area360 is platform agnostic, it uses beacons from the likes of Swirl and Gimbal, and it is not tied to one technology provider. Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) participation, with its Eddystone platform, is giving everyone yet another reason to pay attention to the beacon space.

The founder of Area360, Chris Smith, was born in Seattle and went to college in New Zealand, where he started Dash Tickets, one of the largest ticketing companies in New Zealand. When he sold off his portion of that company, he started what eventually became Area360 and it's now based in Seattle. The company plans to essentially double its employee base, from 20 to about 40, in the coming months, with a focus on adding development and operational talent.

For more:
- see the press release

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