I have a particular interest in Bluetooth beacons because I have worked on a few projects that have used iBeacons. For the uninitiated, Bluetooth LE allows beacon unique ids (and sometimes extra information) to be seen by smartphones without having to pair devices as was the case with previous versions of Bluetooth. It also uses lower power.
The id in the advertising data can be formatted as either an Apple iBeacon id or Google’s Eddystone-UID. Google also has the facility to broadcast a URL that can be launched via Chrome and Opera web browsers or an app. However, most of the effort at the moment is involved with apps that do things when they see the ids. This obviously needs a server side to map ids to things to show or do.
Many companies have sprung up to integrate all of this and most are currently trying to monetise by charging a monthly fee for a generic server side and selling custom or re-branded beacons under their own name. Google partly threatened the server side monetisation model when they announced Eddystone’s free cloud beacon backend that can equally be used for iBeacons. However, as I previously mentioned, it’s a headless backend and you still need to create some type of web UI.
All this has just changed. BeaconControl has released, a free open source UI and backend for managing beacons that will put pressure on beacon solution integrators.
I believe these companies will now need to specialise in order to survive. This specialisation might take many forms. One might be to concentrate on unique facilities that only their combined more-customised beacons and platform can provide, for example, beacon battery health. Alternatively, they might produce more specialised backends suitable for specific usecases such as museums or retail where the user experience and in-app actions might be better if they were more oriented towards those domains. A third opportunity is specialising in management. As evidenced by Brooklyn Museum, the setup and location of beacons, creation/entering of data, ongoing monitoring and support of venues can be large tasks that are sometimes under estimated.
UPDATE: Also see BeaconZone for more information on beacons.