While there will be billions of Internet-connected consumer things ranging from wearables to appliances, one of the most visible objects for marketers still will be beacons, at least into the foreseeable future.
Beacons are quite nicely maturing from simply on-the-spot-ad-triggering systems to devices that facilitate the collection of consumer location data combined with analysis that translates that into new behavioral insights.
And based on new forecasts just out, that potential can be dramatically increased from now well into the future.
The market of Bluetooth Low Energy beacons will more than double this year, according to ABI Research. Even more significantly, the number of beacons is on track to break the 400 million shipments mark by 2021.
Retail is the main focus of beacons today, according to ABI, and some contracts with beacon sellers are starting to pass 1 million units.
Beacons will impact mobile advertising, leading to a new generation of advertising companies, according to the researchers.
The dedicated beacon advertising market is projected to grow strongly and collaboration and aggregation of beacon networks will develop this year, driven by the need for larger scale.
Beacons this year are projected to support up to five-year battery life, concurrent transmission of Google’s Eddystone and Apple’s IBeacon standards, sensor integration and proprietary transmission of data.
Beacons also are expanding beyond traditional ad-triggering uses, with data being gathered as consumers pass by beacons for later usage.
Some of these uses involve the capability to more accurately predict when a person is likely to go shopping, so that more timely and relevant ads can be sent, as I wrote about here.
Beacons are also being used outside of advertising, with more of a service bent. For example, Citibank and beacon-maker Gimbal just introduced beacons integrated with the Citi app at some bank branches in New York.
Customers with the app passing by an ATM machine in a branch get a beacon-triggered message allowing them to tap their smartphone screen to unlock the door, rather than using a bank card.
This is a similar idea to airport check-in, where beacons can trigger smartphone activity when a person nears a certain location. nThe marketing potential using beacons is almost limitless.
Especially with there being several hundred million of them in place.
This column was originally published in Connected Thinking on May 11, 2016.