inbeacons wants to give brands, retailers, tourist hot spots and other venues an easy way to deliver content based on Estimote beacons.
While the company might just be headed for direct competition with Estimote itself, I was curious to learn more about their approach and recently interviewed Stefano Martino to find out what he’s learned and the success his company has had in building services around the popular turtle-shaped beacon.
What’s clear is that there’s a demand. As we’ve written elsewhere, a beacon is just a piece of hardware attached to your wall if your user doesn’t have an app, and an app is usually a lot more useful if there’s a way to deliver and update content.
Which End of the Stack?
This is the challenge of the ‘stack’ – and I’ve proposed that we’ll see the world of iBeacons evolve in two ways:
- Developers will build services and content management systems around the hardware. In the next week or so we expect to see Estimote launch some kind of web-based dashboard where retailers or developers can both manage their fleet of beacons but also the content that gets delivered because of them.
- Existing services will append iBeacon to their existing platforms. A great example of this would be to imagine Square, the makers of the popular tablet cash register and credit card readers, adding iBeacon devices as part of its retail service package.
inbeacons is working from the ‘bottom of the stack’, seeing an immediate need to make it easy to publish content to apps that are connected to Estimote beacons.
The Estimote Industry
More than anything, inbeacons represents the cottage industry which has exploded around Estimote. The beacon makers claim 10,000 developer kits have been distributed.
With as many use cases as there are physical locations we can expect to see a rapid growth in apps and services built both around their Bluetooth LE beacons and other providers.
What interested me most about inbeacons was the philosophy and approach they were taking, the expected business model, and what they’ve learned in the Italian and global markets. To that end, Stefano Martino spent some time answering questions about their business:
Why did you decide to build a CMS around Estimote in particular?
Following the launch of iOS 7 and iBeacon functionality we were excited about the possibilities in the technology. In order to test and create the new ideas we had in mind we immediately started looking for beacons and while we developed hardware prototypes we also signed up for the Estimote developer program.
Estimote became such an immediate and popular hardware choice that I think most developers working with BLE devices has an Estimote kit. As we created our first apps we understood pretty soon that a CMS would be needed to easily manage files such as videos, images text and others formats. Moreover, we felt the need to have a kind of dashboard that allows you to “configure” what an application will do without needing to code all the time.
This is what we have done and this is what our first closed beta user group likes about our system: using inbeacons is like configuring your app’s behavior from a web dashboard and having the chance to decide what to do when your device is near a beacon.
Can you give examples of the types of stores that you think will use your system?
Even though the use of iBeacon in retail is an interesting and obvious idea we are not solely focused on this direction.
Beacons in general can be used in several ways: for indoor location, payment, coupons, advertising, games, tours and much more. We are fascinated by the idea of interacting with physical objects in the real world and connecting them with people in the most natural way.
At the moment our platform is very flexible because it allows you to match beacons and content. Whatever content you have and no matter how many beacons you have you can easily configure “what has to be shown and where” through our system. Since we are focusing on a Content Management System and not on hardware we can leave it to our customers and users to imagine and experiment how use their beacons. Our commitment is to create the most flexible solution that makes these experiments possible.
So, you’re a CMS…and work only with Estimote? I think that’s a really interesting approach. Will you expand to other beacons in the future?
We have started the new year introducing inbeacons as a cloud CMS for Estimote. There are several players in the market offering hardware and software with different capabilities but everything sounds to us like a fixed package. You get this hardware and this software.
We do believe both beacons and IoT have big potential and they will grow in the next future. New players will come and new hardware will follow; wearable devices and new ideas will arrive and you’ll need flexibility in the kind of solution you may want to use.
The Road Map of Services
inbeacons represents one of the players in a cottage industry of iBeacon hardware, software and services. It will be a crowded field. But when the entire world is the new interface there’s lots of room for innovation, niche players and radical thinking about where connected experiences will take us.
Stefano’s insights into their approach were a reminder that at the birth of a new industry there’s a lot of room for businesses built on passion and discovery – a good sign for the still-nascent iBeacon industry.