Global Success Points to a Year of Bluetooth LE
Estimote has over 10,000 developers worldwide working with its Bluetooth LE-capable beacons. For a technology that’s barely a few months old, the number represents a stunning level of traction.
Over 10,000 devs are building apps on top of Estimote. I’ve never seen developer traction like this in my life.
— Steve Cheney (@stevecheney) December 20, 2013
First We Play
10,000 developer kits might seem like a tiny sliver when compared, say, to 10 million plus Facebook applications. But there are a few key things to remember:
- These are developer kits. They’re not actually meant for deployment (although we know for a fact that they’re being deployed regardless!)
- There’s no web or cloud-based service yet – a key factor when Estimote is ready to launch at massive scale
- The beacons haven’t been certified yet, nor do they conform to Apple’s iBeacon specification (through no fault of their own – Apple hasn’t released its final spec yet).
By way of comparison, Twitter had 70,000 registered applications accessing its API by 2010, 3 years after its launch at SWSX. And with Twitter we’re talking about pure software – while in the world of beacons you need, well, a thing to develop with.
Imagine if you needed to have the Twitter API mailed to you and you’ll have some idea how amazing it is to have 1/7th the traction of Twitter in 1/7th the amount of time.
Will Estimote Be a Fully Open System? Or Are We Still Waiting for the Fees?
Twitter may, however, also hold the hint of concerns about Estimote. For those who remember the way that Twitter suddenly turned the taps off to developers using its API, there’s a suitable note of caution about Estimote.
Without a terms of service and without a detailed and published outline of its future pricing policies, developers might be having a lot of fun with their beacons but might not want to build a business around their ‘motes.
Estimote may decide when it launches its cloud control panel that it will be the only access point for developers to change the UUID of a device, set it to private/pairing mode, or otherwise update the firmware. Whether it provides this service for free or a fee hasn’t been stated yet.
Much like Qualcomm is distributing low-cost beacons but charging a healthy fee to manage them on the back end, Estimote might elect to take the same path.
As Steve Cheney of Estimote notes: they’re not a hardware company, they’re a software company. So if you’ve bought yourself some Estimote beacons it’s wise to keep an eye out for what you’ll pay for the software part of the equation.
2014: The Year of the Beacon
Regardless of what to expect next from Estimote, the interest in iBeacon technology points to an amazing year ahead. Right now, I still think it’s an underrated story in the media who have mostly focused on retail experiences like the roll-out in Apple stores or at Macy’s.
But this misses the larger story: that beacons can power everything from museum experiences to how we care for patients in hospitals; that they can be both things we stick to the wall and devices we wear on our wrists.
With 10,000 developers playing with Estimote alone (and countless thousands more using other brands of beacons or making their own), we’re at the very very beginning of a bigger story: one in which the physical world becomes the interface for our digital lives because with beacons our devices can finally see.
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