We’re several years into the beacon and “internet of things” era and only in the past year are we starting to move beyond pilot-stage implementations. Beacons have been most associated with retail in-store marketing (e.g., offers) but they have a much wider array of uses.
Despite their utility, beacons face a number of challenges. Rolling them out and managing them at scale across multiple locations is one. Another perhaps more mundane, but important, issue is battery life.
Most beacons are battery powered and for that reason can be placed virtually anywhere in physical locations. But in large-scale deployments there might be thousands of beacons in hundreds of locations, or vice-versa. Battery replacement becomes a potentially significant cost over time.
Enter a Boston-based company called Beco. The company has developed a patented, “battery-free” beacon that “harvests” energy from existing light fixtures and can run indefinitely. There is LED location-aware “smart lighting” (with included beacons coming soon) but they need to be installed to replace the existing bulbs.
Beco contends that its beacons can be installed “in a matter of hours” in even very large retail, warehouse or corporate environments. Any data captured by Beco’s beacons is then delivered to a cloud-based dashboard without requiring any new network infrastructure.
I spoke with Beco’s Matthew Claudel, who said that the company is focused less on conventional retail consumer use cases than analytics for enterprises. Claudel explained Beco is helping customers measure and benchmark space utilization, among other things:
Although our clients are from a broad set of industries, we’ve seen digital-physical integration bring the greatest value in the retail and workplace sectors. Particularly with the contemporary shift toward flexible, dynamic, collaborative office environments, the data that results from Beco “building apps” also offers visibility into the outcomes of any particular spatial strategy – whether it is hot-desking or simply reconfiguring teams – and provides hard data that can be used to promote team dynamics or efficiency.
While the company’s beacons, which support iBeacon and Eddystone, can be used for retail purposes, Claudel says Beco sees a near-term opportunity to give enterprises access to a data stream that captures how their properties and spaces are being used.
Internal enterprise beacon deployment avoids the challenges of getting consumers to download a retailer app, turning on Bluetooth and location. Enterprises can then capture valuable data that will offer operational insights for improved efficiency. Those in turn could translate into improved customer experiences as well.