Estimote, ‘Not Just A Beacon Company,’ Opens Full ‘Micro-Location’ Tech Stack
The pioneering proximity marketing company opens the door wide on indoor navigation hardware, software, tracking, analytics — even objects on the move.
Although Estimote wears its slender, sticky beacons as a badge of honor, the company is already building out what it expects is the next stage of proximity-tech applications beyond marketing with the release of its Location Intelligence Platform.
Billed as an “operating system for the physical world,” the Location Intelligence Platform is intended to complement and expand on the online-to-offline connections its Bluetooth-powered beacons have represented.
Although beacons are still far from being considered a mainstream technology in the way that other mobile connectivity signals like wi-fi or NFC are, as the proximity marketing space becomes increasingly crowded, Estimote views the Bluetooth devices as a foundational product; it just doesn’t want to sit still and wait for greater adoption by retailers and brands as a way to send a simple notification to shoppers in a store.
“Our main message today is that Estimote is not a beacon company; we’re a full stack location intelligence company building beacon and sensor hardware,” Steve Cheney, Estimote’s co-founder and SVP of business and operations told GeoMarketing. “And we’ve successively brought together very disparate products —beacon hardware, cloud software, on-device device SDKs and smart data science —to make a platform for location intelligence and context.”
Estimote foresees individual beacons continuing to be a key part of what it provides to proximity-based communications channels. The company expects those needs to be even more prominent as beacon hardware gets smaller and cheaper and more ubiquitous. But advances will be made outside the traditional retail environment even as major brands tout greater omnichannel efforts to reach consumers.
In a blog post outlining its plans for the Location Intelligence Platform, Estimote suggests that the “applications are endless” and that its services are meant to extend from retail to museums to “asset tracking” in industrial and personal environments.
“If you think about the video and the use-cases there, indoor location lends itself really well for asset tracking,” Steve Cheney, Estimote’s co-founder and SVP of business and operations told GeoMarketing. “Whether those ‘assets’ are expensive equipment that is moved between different rooms in a hospital, Black Friday specials in a superstore, or just tracking personal assets.
“We don’t know — or want to predict — all the use-cases that will emerge, but it’s safe to say that location intelligence will be a big part of future indoor environments,” Cheney continued. “We have some massive corporations building this platform into the buildings on their campus now to make them ‘smart.’”
Nearables And Smarter Spaces
In addition to helping shift the marketing landscape in the direction of beacons, Estimote is also known for introducing the word “nearables” last year to describe beacons or any static tool that can be placed to communicate with a digital device. While the distinctions between “beacons,” “wearables,” and “nearables” are relatively clear for technologists, all three tools fall under the rubric of “the Internet of Things.”
By broadening its focus around “nearables,” Estimote is poised to capture the wider array of connected devices consumers carry around in their pockets and interact with on a daily basis. In an example of its wider focus for this product’s launch, Estimote showcases video promotion set in a large office space loft.
The video shows co-workers slapping Estimote’s rubber, epoxy beacons on books and bicycles so users can track the movement of person objects in an indoor location. At one point, a “digital scavenger hunt” ensues, where people in a loft compete to “capture the desk” by being the first to locate a notebook with an Estimote beacon stuck on it.
The point is to illustrate how objects can be given greater importance in a particular place, whether its an office complex, a college department building, a market, or any other space where people gather and move.
Crowds And Clouds
“In the future, indoor location context will be crowdsourced,” Cheney said, thanks to the ability to store such information in the cloud.
When a shopper in the produce aisle picks up a head of lettuce in a store, the “micro-location” (i.e., a person’s position as picked up by a sensor) can be noticed and marked by that shopper and others who have bought similar items.
A store may want to engage its customers by allowing other users to “check off” the lettuce purchase in a recipe app. By marking the place where a person was standing, it becomes easier for others to find the same item in the same spot, much like the way Waze alerts its app users to the scene of an accident via outdoor GPS.
A “nearable” such as a beacon is not going to affixed to each head of lettuce. And consumers are free from having to do any additional work either, other than just showing up a place and picking up a product.
The use of sensors within apps makes it possible to create a specific presence in a way that’s passive and automatic. And the ability to introduce crowdsourced locations are how Estimote plans to go beyond the beacon.
The real way that location intelligence can be built out indoors is by distributing the collected intelligence of a place within the app of a person using it. From there, the signal gets sent to the cloud with additional data coming from the beacons on the wall.
With that place-based information collected in the cloud, Estimote’s new app then has the ability to search for items tagged with its stickers. “Simply enter the name of a nearable and you’ll know exactly where it’s located,” Cheney said. “It’ll be highlighted on a map of the relevant location, as long as the location itself is either public or belongs to you.”
But why would a shopper ever go through any effort?
“Maybe because it allows them to shop the store in 15 minutes instead of 30,” Cheney said. “It really is a holistic platform approach.”