In past posts, we’ve talked about LiFi and the way light is changing the game of wireless internet. We’ve discussed beacons which have potential to help us examine in-store behavior. And like Thomas Edison once said, “There’s a better way to do it – find it.”
That said, let’s take it a little further… and examine light – one specifically LED and how it compares to the effectiveness of the beacon.
We may be aware now, that the in-store lighting infrastructure industry is changing big time. Research is beginning to sway the world to adopt LED technology… for more reasons than one.
This year, retailers will have to search out non-incandescent and non-fluorescent bulbs that meet new energy efficiency standards to light their stores. The decision doesn’t seem difficult after finding LED bulbs use 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs, last up to 20 times longer, AND can do things we never even dreamt of.
Today, LED lighting can be transformed from an infrastructure cost to a valuable source of data and a communication medium to engage with customers and employees. The semiconductor-like backbone of most LED’s, and the diodes each produces, turns them into information beacons for Li-Fi (Wi-Fi that uses light) networks and indoor location platforms.
Yes, there is new lighting technology that actually responds to the environment, working to transmit information and provide more functions designed to help consumers… the same way a multi-million dollar order of BLE beacons would. So why have both?
Currently, there are debates between Apple’s iBeacon vs LED lighting and whether the beacon market can scale to meet industry demands. 2015 was predicted to be the year for the beacon; but questions linger on how venues will maintain large quantities of beacons and how scalable they actually are if LED can do it better.
For instance, if we’re talking about scalability, imagine a big-box store whose square feet are 100K+ in size. That means that store would need approximately 40 beacons in-store. With big stores having thousands of chains across the country, the average number of beacons needed could be more than 150,000 at an estimated cost of nearly $1.5M in strictly hardware costs.
Then take into consideration maintenance costs and the length of battery life which according to research could be approximately 3 months per beacon.
Finally, the biggest concern is scalability of the BLE beacon vs LEDs.
Say a consumer walks into a store and stands in front of a wall of shoes. He or she stands in front of a specific brand, but in order for the beacon to be able to know which one, there would have to be beacons spaced closer together to get accurate proximity of the customer in order to engage. That could potentially spike $1.5M to $15M quarterly, and with the next level of indoor location becoming micro-targeting (brand-level engagements within three feet), it will be necessary to have as many beacons as possible, as close together as possible.
Big-box stores like Wal-Mart might not be able to keep up with the frequency of battery replacement and high cost to install and maintain batteries and beacons in general.
That said, companies like Bytelight think they can replace the BLE beacon with a more affordable way to not only light a room, but make their LEDs “talk” to any smartphone and tablet with a camera and/or Bluetooth smart technology that opts-in.
It seems that with lighting innovations moving faster than ever before, the future seems more than just bright.
What are your two cents? Will beacons still be all the buzz or will LEDs take retail by storm?