Companies need more than just hardware. Scaling your beacon infrastructure will require better partnerships to succeed.
Bluetooth beacon hardware is on the rise. The technology was only created in 2013. However, it has rapidly grown into a semi-readily accessible tool. You can find them on Amazon or Alibaba. Upscale fablabs have them in buckets. Hackathons are featuring entire challenges solely on beacons.
Not surprisingly, the number of beacon companies is also growing. These hardware providers are developing and specializing. Despite the strong association between beacon technology and hardware, the physical beacon products are just the tip of the infrastructure iceberg.
Initially, buyers had no choice but to stick with the big beacon companies. These big players provided services, software, and offered expertise far beyond just hardware troubleshooting. This was natural. The playing field was rather small, so companies could try to cover the entire chain. They were hardware, software, deployment—the whole toolkit. And buyers used these services out of necessity.
Now, buyers have more options. There are all kinds of specialized beacons and companies offering only very particular beacons and hardware.
Now, the market is becoming fragmented. Startups are swooping in and offering all kinds of apps and solutions. Some buyers are piecemealing their own projects. However, when it comes to scaling small POCs to real deployments, the "piecemeal" approach is failing.
Bigger projects are consistently being won by those same, older companies that offer hardware, software, and the full toolkit. Apps and end-solutions may require small, external companies, but infrastructure continues to be a one-stop-shop.
Scale doesn't need cheap beacons. It needs better partnerships. Lack of knowledge and unpreparedness will lead to failed projects and infrastructures.
There are likely several reasons for this trend, but one really sticks out: if 5% of your beacon infrastructure is flawed, the end-user software can't run properly. Companies rolling out 1000-beacon projects could save dollars buying budget beacons, but that’s a short-term solution. The reality is, an infrastructure should be built to last, and it’s established companies who know how to make it work.
Hardware isn't the only thing your project needs. There are five key components to a beacon infrastructure:
There are different stages to a beacon deployment, and each will have their own needs. Be prepared to tackle your POC, deployment, maintenance, and even technical updates over the course of the years following initial planning.
When you have employees or customers relying on you, it’s paramount that you feel confident in your hardware, software, and services. That's why, if you’re deploying 100 beacons to collect data and automate processes in a small warehouse or coworking space, it's worthwhile to invest time in finding the best business partner.
First and foremost, you must understand what you hope to accomplish with your infrastructure. Once you have real expectations about your project, you can better judge what kind of relationship or tools will add the most value. Before deploying, you and your partner should understand what kind of services you plan to power.
When evaluating different partners, pay close attention to how much real-world experience each has with your particular use case. Many companies are new to beacons and IoT. Those who have been in the field will have a better understanding of your needs and how to deal with trouble.