The Future is Now, with Beacon Technology

The Global Beacon market size was valued at US$1,215.257 million in 2020 and is anticipated to increase at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 41.91% over the predictive period to reach US$14,087.993 million by 2027. A Bluetooth beacon is a tiny wireless device that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for communication. It's similar to a lighthouse in that it sends out a steady signal that other devices can detect. Every ten seconds, the beacon transmits its ID numbers (more or less, depending on its settings). That signal is picked up by a nearby Bluetooth-enabled device, such as a smartphone or gateway. When a dedicated app identifies it, it connects it to a cloud-based file or piece of material and presents it to the viewer.

Types of BLE Beacons

Bluetooth Low Energy beacons are available in several types. However, the major types of BLE beacons are:

iBeacon: Apple's iBeacon was the first BLE Beacon technology to be introduced, hence, most beacon data formats are based on it. iBeacons may be read and broadcast from any BLE-capable iDevice, and are enabled in numerous Apple SDKs. The iBeacon is a closed, proprietary standard. There is a big ecosystem surrounding iBeacons, as well as a large pool of developer tools. However, one must be a member of Apple's developer community to access these tools.

Since iBeacons are an Apple product, it is being used by a number of people, because of its functional and stable ecosystem. The sole constraint is that the iBeacon data must be interpreted using a database. Without a compatible database, UUIDs cannot function.

AltBeacon: Radius Networks offers an open-spec, free beacon design called AltBeacons. AltBeacon's open-source specification expects to compete with Apple's closed-source iBeacon specification. It covers almost the same capabilities as an iBeacon. However, it does not have as much technical support as of yet.

While iBeacons have 20 of the 27 bytes of user data available (UUID+Major+Minor), AltBeacons have 25 of the 28 bytes available (MFG ID, BeaconCode, BeaconID, MFG RSVD). This implies that more information can be transmitted with each message.

AltBeacons have a lot of potentials. They make good use of the available space, are backward compatible with iBeacons to some extent and are open source. However, it is a very new technology, with a very small user base, and thus has to struggle a lot to compete against the market penetration of iBeacons. 

URIBeacon: Google's URIBeacons project is part of their Physical Web ambition. The project appears to be inactive development and will most likely improve significantly over time. URIBeacons can be defined as iBeacons with a URL in the payload, which makes them quite comparable to BLE-enabled QR codes. They use BLE advertising packets to provide brief internet connectivity. Unlike iBeacons and AltBeacons, which are typically used as "put up once and leave running forever" devices, URIBeacons feature a configuration service and are intended to be upgraded with new data and change over time. In iBeacons and AltBeacons, a database is also necessary to provide meaning to the data, but with URIBeacons, the entire internet acts as the database.

URIBeacons use the same channel as the other beacons to transmit data. URIBeacons distribute internet links, allowing them to link to more relevant and maybe context-aware information. Moreover, URIBeacons are designed to be readily modified. Furthermore, with the implementation of the BLE IP standard, URIBeacon may be able to communicate with the internet via telephonic technology, allowing for a two-way communication channel.

Applications of BLE Beacons

Beacons have been increasing in utility, owing to the developments and advancements in technology. They have been known to be used in offices for streamlining everyday tasks and to increase the customer base of organizations. Sales and promotional strategies can be easily implemented through beacon technology. Beacons can be used to measure floor occupancy of offices, estimate office space utilization, track employee location in emergencies, visitor tracking, etc. They can also be used to measure simple day-to-day data such as temperature, humidity, motion, air quality, and more in real-time.

Additionally, Beacons have been known to increase organizational productivity by providing navigational information to office visitors, as well as to airport or railway station passengers through smartphone applications.

Asia Pacific region to lead the market

In the worldwide beacon market, Asia Pacific is said to hold the highest share. The market is predicted to grow as demand for navigational systems increases in manufacturing and supplying units. Countries such as China, India, and Korea have reported substantial growth in the beacon market. Also, the growing organized retail sector has led to a growth of malls and supermarkets in the region, further fueling the demand for the beacon market. Educational and research sectors have also reported a growth in demand for the market. Many fast-food restaurants in the region have also reported the increasing usage of beacon technology for replacing waiters and staff, and also to streamline the efficiency in restaurants.

Covid-19 Insight

The COVID-19 virus pandemic resulted in a global economic collapse. Most major sectors experienced large losses as a result of the implementation of shutdown restrictions in most major nations. However, the global beacon market had a positive impact on the COVID-19 pandemic. To limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, governments around the world launched smart wearable devices, to monitor and limit the spread of the virus among people. These devices were available as smartwatches or ankle bracelets and they would collect health data from the user to monitor potential signs of infection. These devices were also used to monitor quarantined patients via location tracking and to reduce the spread of the virus. Proximity tracking of such devices also helped in maintaining social distancing in public or workplaces. These devices helped in maintaining a steady growth of the global beacon market, and are also expected to further increase the demand for the global beacon market.