The Internet of Things gets a lot of hype, but its rollout is slow and it will take a long time for consumers to upgrade existing, non-connected devices that still work fine into something that can communicate with computing gadgets like smartphones. Estimote has put a lot of time and work into expediting our connected future via its beacon hardware and developer platform, and now the startup is taking the next step with its new Estimote Stickers – the pioneering gadget in a coming wave of “Nearable” tech, according to the company.
Estimote’s Stickers are iterations on their original Beacon gadgets, which provide developers with a ready-made Bluetooth LE device that can plug into Estimote’s SDK and give apps hyperlocal awareness – letting them detect nearby devices and provide contextual information about the world around them instantly. Stickers continues that mission, paring down the size of the beacon hardware to an impossibly thin 3mm, with a smaller, more hideable footprint and battery life that still lets them work for up to a year without running out of juice. Each carries an adhesive backing, just like the first-generation devices, and they include accelerometer and temperature sensors in addition to Bluetooth radios.
Accelerometer and temperature sensors mean that the devices can do more than most beacons, which tend to be geared towards stationary use. These can be attached to your dog’s collar, for instance, in order to work like a basic Whistle-type activity tracker providing information on your pet’s exercise level. They could be attached to your bike, in order to trigger the activation of a turn-by-turn direction app when you approach, or something like the Strava cycling activity tracking software.
These Stickers aren’t a direct-to-consumer play, however; Estimote’s audience is still ultimately developers. But part of winning that audience means building hardware that’s production- and consumer-ready, in order to make sure potential clients see the value and convenience of both the software platform and the physical devices required to make everything happen.
“The challenge is, if you’re going to sell something to anything including developers, ultimately you need to create long-term value,” explained Steve Cheney, Estimote co-founder and SVP of Business, in an interview. “We need the hardware to work wherever customers want to put it and to be robust and so we can’t actually compromise any of the design. It’s kind of why just buying Beacon hardware off of Alibaba doesn’t really work.”
Estimote’s business is about building a brand that can do for beacon tech in general what Apple has done for iBeacons – namely inspire trust and confidence. “We think in the Internet of Things the full stack approach is better,” Cheney said, meaning Estimote wants to give its clients ready-made solutions, not just elemental components from which they have to basically build from scratch.
Estimote has already signed up partners to work with the new hardware, including Cisco, IDEO, The Guggenheim Museum and more. Cisco Engineering Director for the Wireless Networking Group Pritam Shah provided the following statement to TechCrunch about its work with Estimote and their new Nearables project, and how it’s helping their current project development:
iBeacon has the potential to enrich our in-venue experience forever. The convergence between BLE solutions like iBeacon and core networking technologies like Wi-Fi are happening rapidly. We’ve enjoyed working withEstimote Beacons to help unify middleware services like network management and application services like indoor positioning. We’re super excited about Estimote Nearables, as they represent an opportunity to bring truly mobile context to location based services.
The Estimote Stickers work with the existing Estimote SDK, which is already in use by over 25,000 developers. They’re now available for pre-order, and will ship this fall. Pricing has improved vs. the original Beacons package, too, with a pack of 10 devices retailing for $99, which is the same price as a pack of just three.
The next generation for computing is ubiquitous connectivity, with Bluetooth LE shipping in anything where it makes even some kind of sense. Estimote envisions a future where that can be used to give our main devices, like smartphones and tablets, a kind of ‘sight’ whereby they’re aware of the world immediately around them in a way they haven’t been before, and Estimote Stickers bring that vision a lot closer to realization.