Zebra Technologies Says Beacons Mean Business

Bluetooth beacons have been used largely for consumer-facing deployments, but Zebra believes the business world should try the wireless technology on for size.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 21, 2014

At last week's Internet of Things World Forum, Dave Etherington, chief strategy officer at Titan (a company that sells advertising space in public spaces, such as transit terminals), Kevin Hunter, COO of Bluetooth beacon manufacturer Gimbal, and Peter Rivera, executive creative director for digital strategy and design firm Infusion, offered a range of use cases focused on engaging consumers through beacon-enabled smartphone applications.

But then an attendee posed a question: "The return on investment for deploying beacons in the supply chain, for doing things such as tracking assets… I would think [beacons] would be perfect for that," he said. "Why is everyone focusing on consumer applications?"

This prototype wine chiller, from Zebra's IoTWF booth, included integrated beacons with temperature sensors and bottles bearing RFID labels inside.
That's when moderator Euro Beinat, VP of platform technologies at Zebra Technologies, lit up. His company (which is emerging as one of the world's largest RFID technology providers through its acquisition of Motorola Solutions' enterprise business) is working to advance beacon deployments in business settings. Beacon manufacturers are increasingly integrating a variety of sensors for measuring temperature and things into their beacons, making the devices suitable for a number of supply chain applications. A transportation company, for example, could employ beacons mounted inside trucks used to move perishable products. If temperature readings inside the cargo space were to reach a dangerous level, the beacon could transit an alert to the driver's mobile device.

Late last year, Zebra announced Zatar, an Internet of Things platform designed to enable companies to manage RFID readers and other devices remotely. At the IoT World Forum, Zebra demonstrated a number of ways in which Zatar could serve enterprise customers, such as by enabling wine sellers to monitor the conditions of its products through a combination of RFID tags tracking individual bottles, as well as beacons with integrated temperature and humidity trackers to ensure optimal environmental conditions.

During a keynote address, Phillip Gerskovich, Zebra's senior VP of new growth platforms, said beacons represent a means for companies to leverage IoT technology with a low bar for entry and quick payoff.

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