2017: BLE, IoT and contextual intelligence


By Shawn Bouchard, director of marketing, Fathom Systems

2017 holds great promise for the advancement of intelligent mobile technology as location plays a greater role in delivering more personalised and relevant experiences. New and incumbent Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) device manufacturers are coming to market with second generation beacons capable of offering more accurate data and a dynamic range of responses to their environment, which all work to turn relatively dumb proximity deployments into smart networks of connected devices.

Privacy and location

If one element will come to define location technologies in the coming year it has to be privacy. Location has been threatening to disrupt marketing for several years now but is arguably on the cusp of actually doing so, and as location powered services become more ubiquitous the choices that define how we interact with those services will force companies to tackle privacy head-on.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) directive will take effect in 2018, which means many location and mobile technology companies will allocate significant resources in the lead up year to ensure compliance. The GDPR applies broadly to companies that control or process personal data in the EU as well as businesses that capture data generated by EU persons, so the global impact on mobile service models will be significant.

Location data is most definitely personal in nature, so companies that integrate privacy-by-design as a core element in their products and services will be well positioned to earn customer trust. Expect to read a lot more about privacy impact assessments in 2017 as entrepreneurs bring new business models to market.

Digital signage

Looking beyond the regulatory environment to the innovations that will drive economic activity in the New Year expect developments in digital signage, new twists on asset-tracking, an extra ‘i’ being added to IoT to create the Intelligent Internet of Things (IIot) as well as the beginnings of market consolidation.

While large scale exits are still rare in the location sector there is some movement happening when it comes to market consolidation; look for a big deal in early 2017 signaling the hunt is on for established companies to carve out marketshare and leverage the sweat equity of early stage location start ups.

Capital is also being put to work for platforms that aim to close the loop on digital advertising. Beacon aggregators are developing interesting business models where physical location becomes an important signal in the broader context of programmatic ad purchasing and personalised marketing. Marketing automation platforms like Marketo and Adobe are ingesting more location-based data to provide marketers with new toolsets to better target their message.

The integration of location-aware technology in digital signage holds great promise for improving the effectiveness of a sign’s message. When combined with a mobile app and a gateway the opportunity for targeted messaging for out-of-home advertising really kicks into high gear.

Real time location systems

Similarly, because of the relatively lower cost of using BLE tags for asset tracking the market potential for BLE powered real time location systems (RTLS) broadens significantly to include use-cases where equipment costs have traditionally been a barrier to entry. Additionally, because of the flexibility in form factor for BLE beacons, asset-tracking can also adapt to support opt-in solutions that track people–a major benefit for companies looking to improve on-site worker safety.

Moving from safety to sanity let’s talk about data for a moment. We’re drowning in it. Much of the data we generate is unstructured, making it unactionable for the majority of companies that capture it. Very few organisations have the capacity and sophistication to do much with the results of their data mining operations.

However, the addition of proximity and context to unstructured data has the potential to smarten up IoT. ‘Smart’ sensors have been around for years now but it’s only when location and context are added to the mix that intelligence can emerge. Look for innovation in manufacturing, the smart home and smart cities as innovators utilise proximity and context to create more intelligent products and services.

There’s plenty to be excited about in 2017, now let’s get out there and do it!

Fathom Systems is a hardware and cloud-based software system provider, which has been designed to redefine the beacon and IoT space.


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