Europe’s iBeacon Pioneers Sensorberg Raises $1 Million To Improve Retail Customer Experience

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Hardware startup Sensorberg just raised $1 million (€750,000) from Berlin Technologie Holding and undisclosed angel investors. Part of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in Berlin, Sensorberg is one of the most promising iBeacon startups in Europe. As a reminder, iBeacon is an indoor positioning system developed by Apple to trigger and send relevant information to your smartphone when you are walking inside a shop.

As a retailer, you first have to buy a few Sensorberg Beacon sensors and place them in your store — for $120 (€89), you get 3 sensors. Then, you’ll be able to take advantage of the SDK and dashboard to implement campaigns or location features for your app.

Estimote is a serious competitor in this space. It has been chosen for Best Hardware Startup at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013 and recently raised a $3.1 million seed round.

Beacons work on Bluetooth Low Energy to detect when a customer’s phone is close to a sensor. Sensorberg promises a 10-month battery and a 30 meter range for its devices.

While the devices are pretty similar, the two startups will probably differentiate themselves through their respective SDKs and sales teams. In fact, Estimote beacon sensors work with Sensorberg’s SDK. It is probably too early to tell which company provides the best implementation of iBeacon.

But there are many potential real world use cases, and this is what makes iBeacon interesting. For example, when you enter a clothing shop, you can receive a push notification with all the latest promos. When you enter a coffee shop, you could get the brew of the week on your phone. Or a shopping mall could display a map to help you find the right store. It could power a new payment system as well, essentially a Square Wallet on steroids.

The hard part is to convince big retail chains to use iBeacon. These customers have the potential to develop a good mobile app, get a large user base and integrate iBeacon features. In the U.S., Macy’s is experimenting with iBeacon. Apple will take advantage of its technology as well.

But for now, it remains a novelty. It can go either way and become a massive retail technology or end up like QR codes. Remember QR codes?