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Mister Beacon Episode #173

Electronic Shelf Labels with Bluetooth SIG

August 22, 2023

This episode we have on the Senior Product Marketing Manager from Bluetooth SIG, Kayla Myrhow, and together, we're diving into a rapidly growing segment of IoT which is changing retail and spreading the connectivity that is a back bone of ambient IoT; Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) powered by Bluetooth technology. From discussing the Bluetooth ESL standard, its secure and stable attributes, to exploring the adoption of ESLs in the US market, we'll journey through the projections that estimate ESL installations ranging from tens of millions to hundreds of millions by 2028. Our discussions will span the use cases for ESLs in retail, from dynamic pricing and precise inventory control to captivating promotions and enriching customer shopping experiences. We'll delve into the world of deployments, uncovering how these labels integrate with Bluetooth modules and backend systems, including smartphones. It's interesting to think that ESLs have been around for two decades, powered by coin-sized batteries, and are now getting a boost from the latest Bluetooth specification 5.4. We unravel the concept of PAwR (Periodic Advertising with Responses) and encrypted advertising data, which together lay the foundation for a connected, frictionless retail environment. We'll explore the global ESL standard, ensuring interoperability between various vendors. Beyond retail, we will explain the applications in healthcare system improvements and how they are becoming a replacement for traditional digital signage. We'll unpack the benefits of tracking inventory and ensuring products are sold before their expiration dates. I hope you enjoy this episode and please let me know if there’s any other topics you’d like us to cover on Mr. Beacon!


  • Steve Statler 00:00

    Welcome to the Mr. Beacon Podcast. Today we're going to be talking about a new part of the Bluetooth standard, the ESL, electronic shelf label standards, we'll get into a little bit of the technology, some really cool use cases. And we'll tie it all back to Ambien IoT, Bluetooth is really everywhere. And I think with the growth of ESL, then there'll be even more Bluetooth more signals more connectivity. I'm really pleased, we got to talk to Kayla Myro, who is a very knowledgeable member of that, that team and just one of quite a few members of the Bluetooth SIG that we've had on the show if you want to go back into the archives, and we've had interviews with Mark Powell about the Bluetooth SIG as an organization. We've been talking to them about a variety of other topics, including mesh and the qualification process. So check those out. But now let's talk with Caleb. The list of Beacon ambient IoT podcast is sponsored by Willie bringing intelligence to every single thing. One of my favorite show types that we have on Mr. Beacon is when we get to talk to people at the Bluetooth SIG who are at the center of the standards that make beacons and IoT and Ambien IoT possible. So I am really pleased Kayla, to have you on the show. Welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast.

    Kayla Myrhow 01:41

    Thank you for having me, Steve, I'm really excited to chat with you today.

    Steve Statler 01:45

    Well, we're gonna be talking about ESLs, which electronic shelf labels and it's a really interesting subject. It's interesting to me, because it's your cells are changing the way retail works. It's, I think, quite an advanced phenomenon. In other parts of the world. It's something that's emerging. It's a very topical here in the United States. And it has significance significance to this show, because it uses kind of low level beaconing. So we're on the Mr. Beacon podcast. beacons are a part of the way your cells have been implemented. And you're going to tell us a bit about the technical side. But, you know, probably more interesting is what this means from a business perspective. And, of course, we have this focus on Ambien IoT. And so the prospect of having 1000s More Bluetooth devices that are generating energy, listening, broadcasting, receiving, that's all part of the ambient ecosystem. So this is a great topic. But tell us tell us a bit about what's happening with ESL and the and the Bluetooth SIG. Is this. A new standard, a new part of the standard? How would you you describe Bluetooth ESL?

    Kayla Myrhow 03:10

    Absolutely. Well, in early 2023, Bluetooth sake, we released the standard 5.4, which really introduced the support for bi directional, large scale, and of course, one to many networking. And that was driven really by the needs of standardization in this electronic shelf label market. Bluetooth, as you mentioned, of course, is a low power networking capability, which really opens up new opportunities for other markets as well, including, of course, shelf sensors, manufacturing and logistics, asset monitoring, and of course, agricultural use cases as well.

    Steve Statler 03:44

    So it's not just about retail. Why? Bluetooth because not all electronic shelf labels use Bluetooth. What's the case for including this in the standard?

    Kayla Myrhow 04:00

    Well, the the arrival of the Bluetooth ESL standard has an incredible benefits for the ESL market. The Bluetooth ESL standard itself is secure, it's scalable, it's interoperable technology solution for ESLs, which really does open up the opportunities for economies of scale, of course, innovation, but also future proofing to really lay a foundation for additional retailer warehousing problems to be solved and that of course naturally unlock some further ROI. But also, the Bluetooth ESL standard really does streamline deployment and unlocks that high scalability plus multi use infrastructure with other Bluetooth based devices in those connected stores and warehouses. Additionally, though, in relation to retail and shopping experiences, the trusted consumer brand familiarity with Bluetooth and customers, we're hoping will also speed up the general adoption of ESL polls, which will of course, unlock some new shopping benefits down the road, with integration into customers in their own personal devices while ensuring that security is always present.

    Steve Statler 05:10

    So where are we in the adoption of ESLs? I think I've seen more of them in Europe than in the US. Give us a sense of the the market size, the market opportunity and how that's rolling out, globally. Why, why the US is, is behind we seem advanced in so many things, but we also have a tendency to be laggards and others. So what's what's going on here?

    Kayla Myrhow 05:41

    Well, I'll talk a little bit about what adoptions like and what's expected to be first, and then we can talk a little bit more about the market itself. You know, recently, the Bluetooth sync collaborated with ABI Research to publish an ESL market research note, to really outline adoption today, and of course, the forecast for adoption in the future. But we're looking at this with the lens of there are 10s of billions of labels globally that have the potential to be replaced with electronic shelf labels, which ultimately represents an enormous addressable market. The last 24 months specifically have seen rapid acceleration of ESL deployments here in North America specifically, but also Europe. You know, we're seeing strong often record unit and revenue growth from leading ESL vendors. But as we see more Bluetooth SIG member companies submit their ESL products for qualification. This is really validating our adoption expectation of the Bluetooth ESL standard to help assist in growing that market from 10s of millions to hundreds of millions of Bluetooth based DSLs and in 2028.

    Steve Statler 06:53

    And what are the retail categories where you're seeing the fastest adoption?

    Kayla Myrhow 06:59

    Well, with the use cases, of course, the ESL use cases can really be applied across multiple verticals. Specifically for retail, we're seeing it for pricing, inventory, control, promotional and of course, enhancing those customer shopping experiences. I can speak to warehousing and logistics. We're seeing use cases surrounding paperless processes, order picking, inventory management, and of course, automation of replenishment of that as well. I do want to mention also we're seeing use cases of ESL across smart buildings, hospitality, healthcare, and ESL, they've really been traditionally used for displaying information and those use cases for room bookings, menus and restaurants, and the in the healthcare space information on patients, even our automated pharmacy and medication management as well.

    Steve Statler 07:52

    Wow, that's a lot. It would be great just to drill down into a few of those use cases and bring them to life. I don't know which ones you feel like the richest ones to go into. But let's start with retail. And you know, my you know, I think simplistically, I'm just thinking about the fact that, oh, you've got an electronic shelf label, you can have a bit more information about the product that helps you sell them and you have a bit more flexibility, flexibility in terms of pricing. But can you tell us a bit more about why there is this traction and momentum in retail?

    Kayla Myrhow 08:35

    Absolutely. So when we're looking at creating a standard for the electronic shelf label market, what we were receiving was actually a demand from large retailers specifically asking for standardization of ESL technology, because they're looking to, you know, be on the receiving end of simple to deploy, low cost, low power, interoperable, highly secure, but also future proof ESL solutions that are available from multiple vendors, and are capable of delivering on multiple use cases within retail. And of course, you know, one technology that's delivered the standard spaced approach to ESL and the smart retail market is Bluetooth specifically with our latest DSL standard.

    Steve Statler 09:22

    What is the architecture of an ESL deployment in a retail store? Obviously, I have the actual displays that are on the on the shelf, but what else is required to make all this work?

    Kayla Myrhow 09:38

    And I'm really glad that you asked that because we're talking about beacons, we're talking about sensors, we're talking about electronic shelf labels. But in terms of deployments, these labels typically integrate with Bluetooth modules to establish the wireless communication with the back end systems with smartphones or other Bluetooth enabled devices. And then the data that's captured in these deployments you Use the no really enable that real time updating and the display of pricing information, product information, promotions, and then of course other relevant content on the cells themselves.

    Steve Statler 10:13

    So what are the I imagine you have the label and you have some kind of infrastructure that's feeding the data to the labels is the gateway to the cloud, a Wi Fi access point with a Bluetooth radio in it, or what's what's the flow of the data to the ESL,

    Kayla Myrhow 10:40

    that gateway is definitely a key component in the architecture of a deployment. Absolutely, using the infrastructure that's already in place is beneficial for a lot of these ESL customers. However, if they were not, if they did not have an existing infrastructure, maybe they're building out new stores, or rolling them out for the very first time, they could really customize that deployment to look like really whatever they need it to be, but they would have to connect with a gateway. You know, that's communicating the information that they're hoping to display on those electronic shelf labels,

    Steve Statler 11:12

    and the labels themselves. Are they generally powered by batteries? Or are they harvesting their energy wirelessly? How does where did they get their power from? Well,

    Kayla Myrhow 11:26

    for the, you know, electronic shelf labels, as you mentioned, they've been around for quite some time close to two decades, they very traditionally have had a coin cell batteries located in them, whether it's one single battery, we're seeing more versions of electronic shelf labels, newer generations, current generations that are deployed have to coin cell batteries in them for longer battery life. But there is absolutely a demand for battery lists, electronic shelf devices, it really opening up that opportunity for Bluetooth based power harvesting IoT solutions as well.

    Steve Statler 12:01

    That's cool. And what was it that had to be done to take the vanilla Bluetooth protocol and turn it into something that could work with yourself?

    Kayla Myrhow 12:16

    That's an excellent question, Steve. It took many years, internally, but also making sure that our Bluetooth SIG members were a key part of the specification development. That was an absolute necessary step for us to get that standard built, because we had to understand the market, how they were building the electronic shelf labels themselves, the manufacturers, what the retailers were asking for. And so we you know, created the Bluetooth specification 5.4 as well as profiles and services that make it much easier for these developers and manufacturers to actually adopt the standard itself.

    Steve Statler 12:55

    I saw an acronym in on the on the website, which had my head spinning a bit, maybe you can demystify periodic advertising with with with responses, P A, W small w r, big R. What is that?

    Kayla Myrhow 13:14

    Thank you for asking Steve, it definitely is a bit of a mouthful P WR periodic advertising with responses, as well as encrypted advertising data. These are two features that really large scale insecure these networking opportunities. But with P WR, we've defined the method to deliver a response to the advertising commands from a central device, while keeping the model of supporting 1000s of nodes or electronic shelf labels. Through those advertising channels. Specifically, I mentioned the electronic shelf label services and profiles that we included in that standard. And we release that alongside the standard to help create interoperability, I really taking advantage of the benefits of the new 5.4 features. But of course, you know all the specific details and functionalities are well defined within the Bluetooth six specification.

    Steve Statler 14:08

    Very cool. And I mean, I'm, I'm very interested in this because on the Williard side, we made these tiny postage stamp sized tags. We designed the silicone actually other people manufacture them. But I'm really excited by the prospect of more nodes in the Bluetooth network in stores, which can potentially provide energy for ambient IoT tags, and also can read the tags with a lot of locality. If I've got like 1000s of Bluetooth devices that can potentially read and relay the signals coming from tags that are on assets then this is a great way to localize Mmm. And understand where inventory is, as well as display the price of the inventory and display information that's going to empower people with the information they need to make purchasing decisions and so forth. So that's why we're excited. What what do you think the implications are of the deployment of these tags? How is it going to change the way businesses are run?

    Kayla Myrhow 15:31

    That's a really wonderful question, Steve. You know, and when we're talking a little bit, I want to circle this back, actually, to what you mentioned about how ESL adoption could relate to IoT more broadly, really, yes, I leveraging Bluetooth technology, not only can the infrastructure be used to enable ESLs, but at the same time, that infrastructure can accommodate multiple Bluetooth use cases, which includes the wireless sensor networks that we're discussing beacons proximity services, which helps with asset and personnel tracking, connecting the point of sale connectivity as well, plus lighting and building controls, amongst many others. But alongside the growing adoption of Bluetooth, bass, DSL devices, the CIG, we expect the exponential growth of these radios, these readers, the sensors and everything in between, as we see more stores shift from that traditional brick and mortar shopping experience to a connected frictionless retail environment.

    Steve Statler 16:33

    You know, we're in this interesting business with IoT, it's sort of a fashion business, we get excited about certain things. But you also have to deal with the cynics who are like, it's never gonna work. I'm like, Okay, well, how would you respond to someone that Slyke? Yeah, there's probably there's a bunch of proprietary implementations. What Why do you think Bluetooth will be successful here? What what are the reasons for optimism about this particular standard?

    Kayla Myrhow 17:06

    Well, a few reasons why we believe it'll be successful is because Bluetooth electronic shelf labels really revolutionized connectivity, analytics, integration and efficiencies across the you know, the multiple industries that we've discussed. But really, the most notable benefit for retailers is that multi vendor interoperability piece. So establishing a global ESL standard allows for retailers to confidently source components from multiple vendors, of course. And so Bluetooth ESL does provide a secure, standardized solution which minimizes barriers to adoption, and can help create that frictionless ESL ecosystem. At the same time. Bluetooth electronic shelf developers benefit from those lower costs and faster innovation due to the economies of scale that they earn from adopting the Bluetooth ESL standard, which leads to increased supplier diversity and attractive component pricing, while a standard AES wireless communication approach allows developers to really focus on those value added features for both the businesses and the customers.

    Steve Statler 18:14

    Is there any synergy between the ESL device is running on Bluetooth and the pervasiveness of Bluetooth in phones, you I think you mentioned the phone, but I didn't quite understand what the role of phones might be with yourself.

    Kayla Myrhow 18:30

    Really, the only connection would be the shoppers experience as they're shopping through the store. Maybe they're doing pick finding on their own in the aisles of the retail store, just that consumer familiarity with Bluetooth, we're very much confident that the consumer familiarity of Bluetooth with these shoppers would help them adopt and and maybe not be so afraid of this new technology that they'll be seeing in stores.

    Steve Statler 18:57

    Okay. And I'd love to just wrap up with a few more digressions into other areas outside of retail. So where do you see some of the biggest opportunities outside of retail and let's just spend a bit more time on those use cases like healthcare is seems to be like the the bountiful market for almost every technical innovation, how should we expect to see yourselves in hospitals and clinics and other healthcare environments?

    Kayla Myrhow 19:37

    What first we have some proven deployments in health care really just using electronic shelf labels as a replacement for digital signage as one way so this could display patient information room reservations, of course, on the staff side, it could be displaying shift locations of where the the actual associate might need to be We're also seeing of course, manufacturers use this in in in warehousing and logistics as well. But going back to hospitals and the health care side, there is a huge benefit for being able to track the inventory, the expiration date, the inventory levels, and automate replenishment around pharmaceuticals and medical and, and and, you know, medication.

    Steve Statler 20:27

    Yeah, anything that that streamlines reduces errors adds more efficiency to health care is something that I think we we need not. Thanks so much. I really knew nothing about this area. And so I feel like I just got a bit smarter. Thanks to you. I appreciate the the chance to talk to you about this.

    Kayla Myrhow 20:50

    Anytime, Steve, anytime for you. And for Willie. Yeah, of course.

    Steve Statler 20:54

    Wonderful. Well, this isn't the end of our discussion, we have another chapter in the episode where I get a chance to speak to Kayla about her background her path into into the Bluetooth SIG and, of course, her music choice, which I thought was amazing. So please stay with us for that. Thanks, Kayla, how did you end up doing the job that you do? It's pretty unusual job. I can't imagine when you were growing up that you thought I would have worked for the Bluetooth SIG.

    Kayla Myrhow 21:26

    You know, it actually did not cross my mind. It was a surprise to me. I studied social psychology and I had a deep curiosity about the relationships between humans and technology. And so throughout my career, I've always advocated for, you know, connected networks that really transform our relationships with humans and technology and in a positive way. And so when the opportunity arose to join the SIG, I was, of course, very excited. But it was when I met that wonderful team that really convinced me that this is somewhere I was meant to be. And so ultimately, really my goal at the segue is to explore, of course, the existing use cases, but find new innovative ways that Bluetooth could be leveraged to really transform our day to day lives.

    Steve Statler 22:11

    How did you get the job? Because, you know, I have kids, I worry, how are they ever going to get a job? And the Bluetooth SIG, I think is a great organization. It's a very successful organization. By but it's like, it's not like there's a million opportunities that how do you how did you get the job?

    Kayla Myrhow 22:33

    Yeah, great question. It was, it was a bit of a surprise. I was very comfortable. In my previous role. I actually wasn't looking. I had a wonderful a recruiter reached out to me and expressed to me all the things of the Bluetooth SIG really was looking for. And there was some overlap with, you know, my social psychology having that research background, but also some of my experiences that I had across Apple devices. And those networks, of course, have some experience in Wi Fi security and virtualization clients. And so it felt almost like a pinch me moment when I had the Bluetooth SIG recruiter in my in my inbox and I said, Hey, you know, it's always a conversation until it isn't. So I was happy to have that conversation and learning what they were looking for and what they needed. It felt like a very natural fit,

    Steve Statler 23:19

    I can tell. Okay, so now the toughest question of the interview, what are the three songs that have the most meaning for you and why?

    Kayla Myrhow 23:31

    As steep I thought about this for probably three or four days. This week alone. I won't say that I was losing sleep over but I was definitely stressing a bit. But I came down to three songs that I loved and the first one is going to be one more time by Daft Punk. This is a song that was released in the year 2000. And it's really a song about y2k and celebrating a new day. But simply if that song is on, it just makes me happy.

    Steve Statler 24:01

    I love that choice. And I've got at least one of their albums that I on vinyl, which I love. Play. It sounds amazing. The production is just incredible. Okay, that makes sense. And what's your next choice?

    Kayla Myrhow 24:16

    Yeah, the second one is a bit of a sentimental one for me. It's going to be September by Earth, Wind and Fire. This song is actually inspired by my wedding date. And I was married on September 21. To my wonderful partner, Patrick.

    Steve Statler 24:30

    Oh, you know, I saw them late last month, they came to San Diego. It was incredible. They played at the radii shell, which is this beautiful outdoor kind of amphitheater on the bay and they had the full horns, everything. It was amazing. So I'm with you there as well.

    Kayla Myrhow 24:53

    Thank you. I'm lucky to have seen them as well. Unfortunately it was last year I haven't had a chance to Even more recently, but again, like you mentioned, the whole band being up there. It's a ton of fun to see them live.

    Steve Statler 25:07

    It's still got it. And what's number three?

    Kayla Myrhow 25:09

    All right, the third one is first and foremost, I am a massive Star Wars fan, so I had to sneak sneak one in here. So I decided to go with the princess Leah's theme from John Williams and of course, the London Symphony Orchestra. And the reason why I really chose the song is because it's a song that really embodies hope, which is the general theme of Star Wars, but also, it has a beautiful contrast to some of the more famous songs from Star Wars such as the Imperial March or the cantina song. And but you know, I remember hearing it for the first time and it's just resonated with me all over all these years after hearing it from the first time.

    Steve Statler 25:47

    I love the you love Star Wars. That's like I just feel like if you're working in the Bluetooth SIG, for some reason, you got to be a Star Wars fan. find myself making all this stuff about me as well as I guess, but I the the San Diego symphony, the radii shell that's like their home venue. And they played along to episode four. And they played that theme song and I was almost in tears. It was amazing. It was just so good. So good.

    Kayla Myrhow 26:20

    Yeah, but will you winner it's one that'll just last through all the years that has I don't think that theme song at least principally is theme song is going anywhere anytime soon. It really is beautiful son.

    Steve Statler 26:34

    How I was I was flying back from Israel. And I was my seatmate was watching family guys rendition of Star Wars throughout most of the time. I was awake. And that was that was another amazing spin off of Star Wars the time a big fan. Very good. Well, I really enjoyed that. Thank you, Kayla. That was great.

    Kayla Myrhow 26:56

    Absolutely. Thanks for asking.

    Steve Statler 27:00

    Well, Kayla, thanks so much for being on the show. It's been great, fun, educational, and I loved your song choices.

    Kayla Myrhow 27:10

    Thanks so much, Steve. It's a pleasure to be here.

    Steve Statler 27:14

    So I hope you enjoyed that interview with Kayla from the Bluetooth SIG. I think it's a really interesting area. Bluetooth is such an amazing standard. It's very simple in some respects, but multifaceted in others. So I'm pleased that we got a chance to dive into this particular area. And I'm really pleased that you stayed with us to the end. So thank you for that. Thank you to Aaron hammock for piecing the pieces together editing the episode producing everything and getting it out so that you can enjoy us. Please do. Stick with us. And let me know if there's any particular subjects that you'd like us to cover. Thanks for listening to the ads. All of the revenue comes from those goes to the monarch school for kids from homeless families while Stan working at Willie Shing right to the banking wrap. So we pass 100% of that of that revenue on to that good cause which I recommend you check out if you want to support another deserving cause. So once again, thanks for joining us and see you next time.