Introducing ‘Nearables’; the love child of iBeacons & the Internet of Things

There’s been a lot of talk about iBeacons since they came onto the scene late last year with tech-savvy retailers hoping that they can live up to the hype and finally provide them with a way of utilizing those handy little devices we all carry around in our pockets and transform them into virtual personal shoppers.

While we haven’t seen many great examples of this in the real world just yet, one of the companies that has become synonymous with the iBeacon concept, Estimote (a quick Google Image search for “iBeacons” reveals pretty much exclusively their product), is already onto their second product iteration. Although the bluetooth location beacon that they released last year was not exactly clunky, most of the use cases that were highlighted seemed to involve it being placed in a static location such as the wall of a retail outlet.

With the company this week announcing that they have made the device smaller and thinner and affixed it to a sticker, something that can effectively be worn, it opens up a whole host of further use cases that fall firmly into the Internet of Things realm. Each ‘sticker’ includes an accelerometer to track motion, a temperature sensor, security authentication and a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmitter that works up to 70 meters with the battery lasting up to a year. Estimote describe these sticker beacons as ‘Nearables’.

As well as being used in a retail capacity to give customers information on products that they come into contact with, the stickers can monitor an object’s movements so you can keep track of your pets or personal items, or map your bicycle route or trip to work etc. Smartphones and other devices can detect where they are in relation to the beacon stickers, giving them added context. For example, if your smartphone realizes that it’s in your bedroom (i.e. it is near your bedroom beacon) and you have an early meeting and the traffic is particularly bad, it will wake you up earlier.

I don’t think we’ll really start seeing these things making their way into the mainstream for another couple of years yet, but with other companies like Nest and Smart Things also blazing a trail in this space, the prospects are exciting.