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ABI Research Finds the Future of BLE Beacon Shipments is Not in Retail

London, United Kingdom - 22 Aug 2016

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Though beacon retail technology is grabbing headlines, the future of BLE beacon shipments is not in retail. ABI Research forecasts the amount of BLE beacon shipments made in the personal tracking, IoT, and real-time location system (RTLS)/asset tracking markets will easily surpass those in retail. The overall BLE beacon market continues to grow rapidly with shipments set to break 500 million units by 2021.

“While retail is forecast to remain a major market today for BLE beacons, we are increasingly seeing shipments into these new markets,” says Patrick Connolly, Principal Analyst at ABI Research. “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.”

In the IoT space, ABI Research expects to see BLE combined with LPWAN technologies to support large scale deployments in smart cities. Another emerging trend is the shift to software-based beacons, in which vendors leverage integrated BLE ICs as beacons and virtual beacons; these will be major drivers across a range of markets.

“The retail market continues to be the big money generator in terms of overall revenue,” concludes Connolly. “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.”

While the competitive landscape largely remains the same, with the major BLE beacon vendors continuing to dominate, Sensoro recently broke the 300,000 BLE beacon shipment milestone and looks well-positioned to become a top three vendor. But of real interest are the start-ups developing proprietary solutions to meet specific market needs in terms of accuracy and cost. Many are only just coming out of the beta stage, but ABI Research expects to hear a lot more about them, and perhaps some acquisition activity, over the next 12 months.

These findings are from ABI Research’s BLE Beacon Technologies, Applications, and Revenues. This report is part of the company’s Beacons, Indoor Analytics & Location, Enterprise IT & OT Convergence, Semiconductors, and Transformative Technology sectors, which include research, data, and analyst insights.