2014 could mark “breakout” year for location technology

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Growing excitement over Bluetooth and beacon technology will result in 2014 being a "breakout" year for indoor location technology in retailers, analysts have claimed.

A new report from ABI Research has said there will be more than 30,000 indoor location installations this year, driven by retailers moving from trialling the technology to full scale deployment.

It said that Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, as well as Apple's iBeacons were fuelling a "second wave" of companies innovating in this space. 

BLE is increasingly being touted as a more compelling alternative to NFC, because it is seen as easier to install and run, and uses existing technology. Last week, Motorola Solutions claimed manufacturers were "moving away" from the technology.

Patrick Connolly, Senior Analyst at ABI Research, said location technology was being used by more than 11 types of retailer, including groceries and chemists. Last month, EE deployed Wi-Fi in UK supermarket chain Asda to help track customer behaviour and is also offering a heat mapping service.

Connolly said: "These are very competitive verticals, which can benefit significantly from identifying and targeting loyal customers. Both already have large loyalty and advertising/offers deals in place and from a practical point of view, in-store items can be difficult to find. All of this makes indoor location a perfect fit."

The research agency said that formerly agnostic sectors, such as fast food restaurants, were reexamining its position after reassessing the technology's potential. It said a number of chains were now trialling location technology to see how it can improve queueing time.

VP and Practice Director Dominique Bronte said: "With a number of initial trials now moving into full deployments, what we are seeing is broad regional and vertical adoption. The arrival of low-cost BLE beacons and Wi-Fi solutions will help to catalyze adoption in 2014, removing many of the capex barriers that exist. We are now seeing these technologies posing a major threat to the traditional RTLS market, with a number of hospitals and corporate/enterprise customers assessing BLE to see if it can meet their requirements."