Commentary

The Beacon Trajectory: More Money, Uses, Numbers, Features

After a year of trials and experiments, beaconing is not only getting serious but also expanding into new territories.

The money also is following the market, as can be expected.

Some recent research from the IHL Group, exclusively reported here last week (37% of Large Retailers to Deploy Beacons This Year), projected significant beaconing growth, especially among large retailers.

That study, conducted for Earthlink and AirTight, found that larger and smaller retailers would see the most significant beacon growth this year, with those in the middle catching up by the end of next year.

And now comes additional investment dollars to fuel some of that growth.

Boston-based Swirl announced today that it has raised an additional $18 million from Hearst Ventures, SoftBank and Twitter Ventures, bringing its total funding to $32 million.

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The bottom line is that significant investment is being made in beaconing. 

The Swirl beacons and platform are installed at Lord & Taylor, Hudson’s Bay, Urban Outfitters, Marriott, Alex and Ani and Timberland, all of which I have personally tested and written about here in the past.

In addition to money flowing into the world of beacons, the actual activity of beaconing is extending well beyond its retail roots. Some recent examples:

  • Sports. Beacons from Radius Networks have been installed at the arena where the Nashville Predators face the Chicago Blackhawks tonight. The 200 beacons can trigger mobile coupons, videos and other location-targeted content. Radius tells me they now have more than 50,000 beacons in the field.
  • Wearables. Anyone fortunate enough to get their Apple Watch at the end of this week will be able to shop at Marsh Supermarkets, where beacons from InMarket can trigger messages and deals to those watches, just as they have been doing for mobile phones.
  • IoT (Internet of Things). A subsidiary of Swatch introduced a beacon with an integrated accelerometer to enable motion and context aware applications by sending movements, vibrations and acceleration. When attached to objects or people, the beacons can track proximity and motion via a smartphone app.
  • Technology Advancement. More gauging technologies are being embedded in beacons, including temperature, accelerometer, light sensors, vibration and magnetic. I saw some of this innovation work at CES International.
  • International. In South Korea, beacons from SK Telecom have been installed in convention centers and, with the help of Microsoft, the beacon platform will be extended globally outside of South Korea.
  • White Labeling. Mobile location pioneer Shopkick partnered with ShopperTrak to test the idea of using the Shopkick beacon technology inside the apps of others, such as those of retailers.

There’s more, but you get the idea.

And with all the money following beaconing, we can expect lots more where this came from.

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