Bluetooth Low Energy beacons' future lies in the Internet of Things rather than its original target of retail, a new report has claimed.
Researchers at ABI Research said shipments of beacons will break half a billion units by 2021, as the market moves towards personal tracking, real-time location systems (RTLS) and asset tracking, as well as IoT.
The report predicted beacons will dovetail with LPWAN technologies within smart cities.
Patrick Connolly, Principal Analyst at ABI Research, said: “While retail is forecast to remain a major market today for BLE beacons, we are increasingly seeing shipments into these new markets. Personal tracking is now the largest individual market of the group, with market leader Tile shipping over six million BLE beacons alone.
“In RTLS/asset tracking, a range of new, high-accuracy BLE beacon technologies, designed specifically for this market, will offer a significant cost improvement on traditional technologies.”
He added: “The retail market continues to be the big money generator in terms of overall revenue. Google Nearby, a new feature that automatically alerts people when an app is available for a nearby store that is relevant to their shopping preferences, did not receive the fanfare it deserved and could be a major game changer for the market.
“However, the RTLS/asset tracking market may be a much better bet for hardware vendors, where the potential is huge and the revenue is tied up in hardware and software rather than services and advertising.”
The report noted the growth of beacon vendor Sensoro, which recently broke through the 300,000 shipment barrier. However, it said there is a growing ecosystem of start-ups to meet specific demands for accuracy and cost.