Mister Beacon Episode #79
Trends in the Bluetooth Beacon MarketJuly 11, 2018
Meet the leading designer and maker of Bluetooth beacons in Italy, BlueUp. Partnered with Quuppa for next generation angle-of-arrival location, and supporting iBeacon and Eddystone, BlueUp offers beacons of all shapes and sizes, gateways, along with software and cloud services. As the number of beacons grow and they gain more and more visibility, new applications constantly appear and are even changing the way we talk about “beacons” or “tags”. This week we talk with Alessio Cucini, who has seen the evolution of the beacon market since launching BlueUp in 2014. Optimistic about the direction of the beacon market, Alessio discusses the shift in applications and terminology, iBeacon versus Eddystone, and encryption versus static IDs.
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Steve Statler 0:17
Welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast. We're back here in Helsinki at the Cooper partner conference. And I'm with Alessio, cucine of blue up. Alessio, thanks so much for spending a few minutes with us.
Alessio Cucini 0:32
Thank you, to you for the invitation. Very, thank you very much.
Steve Statler 0:34
Yeah. So you are one of the few Bluetooth Beacon makers in Italy. I don't know if there's anyone.
Alessio Cucini 0:42
The only one the only one.
Steve Statler 0:43
Yeah, yeah. Very good. And so you've got excellent geographic position. And I've heard a lot about you guys. And you're obviously a cooper partner. But you I'm sure, so a lot of beacons that are used with other systems as well. How did you get into the beacon business?
Alessio Cucini 1:04
Oh, okay, we are in the beacon business, maybe from the really beginning about in the 2014. We launched a new company blew up that was blew up. And we have some ideas about Bluetooth low energy to use for some application. And in that period, the iBeacon technology was coming out. So we decided to jump on the train. And so we start by we have an advert background. So we are very skilled in designing hardware and wireless devices. So we started with our first model of Beacon, and then everything is going faster and faster because the marketer guest as more and more features, more and more models. And so now we are, I think a well established actor in the beacon scenario. We have a wide catalog of models, we have been certified for both iBeacon we have the full support for for Eddystone. And from a couple of years, we cooperate with Coupa for supporting their technology. And for both emulation tags and furrball Cooper ready tags and this is the reason why we are here in Helsinki.
Steve Statler 2:31
What was it that brought you into the Cooper fold? Was there a project or
Alessio Cucini 2:37
We were involved by Cooper partner at the time an Italian Koopa partner that asked us if we have Koopa Tex we didn't have but we customize one of our models for them and starting from that collaboration we increase our our work and activity in that direction.
Steve Statler 2:59
Yeah. So, tell us a bit about the beacon market in in Italy, who can you talk about specific customers or in general terms your customers.
Alessio Cucini 3:11
Okay, our customers are widespread on many, many markets, from museums to retail, to industry services and so on. In the very beginning of Beacon market, the most appealing markets were in the retail mainly for proximity marketing and so on. But from about one year and a half to here, so, we are we are experiencing more and more interest in the industry. Where industry means both logistics manufacturing, warehouse management services, where the localization information is important to manage the processes and activities inside the plant and inside the company. And nowadays, I think that the large majority of our beacons are supplied for this kind of market. So industry and services while we are seeing certain reduction or not reduction, but Surtur. The level is not increasing so much in in the in the retail. We have still a market in museums and entertainment that it's quite stable, but there is a great big huge increase in the industrial applications really.
Steve Statler 4:43
And you know, we were talking earlier in the conference about the difference between beacons and tags and at a hardware level they may be very similar but beacons are stationary and use those for proximity and location and tags move around your town Teach them to think is
Alessio Cucini 5:01
Essentially the same objects. It's just a matter of all the name use because because name comes from the, the navigation word, yes. While the tagging name comes from the RFID, and identification word, but essentially are the same objects that periodically advertise its unique name. And clearly, if you put it fixed somewhere, it identifies a position. But if you put attached to a person or to an asset, it is a device, that that person that assets that is moving around in a certain environment. But essentially, it's practically the same hardware, the same functionality is just a matter of how you use it.
Steve Statler 5:46
Yeah, maybe the form factor tags might be we might want something that's a little smaller. Yeah, yeah. And for the can and maybe there can be double A batteries or whatever.
Alessio Cucini 5:59
Yeah, this is this is such an impact on the sides. Because fix it, because usually what you want to last many, many years, so you have to use larger batteries, you can fix on the walls, so you can never mind about the sides. While if you have to wear a beacon clearly must be compact and light, lightweight, and so on. But internet is the same piece of hardware.
Steve Statler 6:29
It's the same chip at the center of it all. So if you kind of look at your sales, what proportion would you say is being driven by tag purchases as opposed to Beacon purchases?
Alessio Cucini 6:43
Okay. I think nowadays, it's about one Alpha, no one no one else? Oh, Reza. Amara Yes, yes, we have seen that the tag application is increasing much more. So I think that in the near future, maybe we will be dominant. Because we we see that there are many industries, many markets, where beacons or tags where they will allow you to call it are used as active identifiers, wireless identifiers. Yeah, you can identify a forklift in our house, you can identify your guest in your in your plant. But there is a huge interest in this kind of use of beacons.
Steve Statler 7:31
Let's get. So tell us a bit more about your company, how many people
Alessio Cucini 7:38
Okay, our company is pretty small. So we are very, very focused on this technology. So we are present we are four people, fixed staff, plus several collaborators and suppliers that for us are not suppliers, but partners. Because when we develop products, we strictly cooperate with them. And at present, our large market share is European about 80 90%. And we have also customers in the Middle East in the Central America and some customers also in the in the forest. And the next jump will be for us to to start selling the US where I present we are not the present. And I think will be very important for us for our, for our company, to to address these new markets,
Steve Statler 8:41
And flesh out a little bit more information about your product range. So you said you had a diverse set of products. You've got gateways, I understand you have different sizes of beacons, do you? How much do you get involved in the software, the back end the fleet management or do you stay away from that?
Alessio Cucini 9:01
Yeah, yeah, yeah, essentially, we, we internally design, all the piece of old components of our systems from the firmware to the hardware design, and software for the gateways. And also we have design backend platform for managing beacons fleets, where our customers can check the status of the beacon. For example, the battery status can update the beacon by remote using gateways, for instance, so you can with a click Change the settings of your beacons that are installed, for example, or 100 or 1000 kilometers away from your headquarter. And so we have a quite complete stack of components from the hardware level up to became management system. What we don't offer is is the application layer, which typically is managed by our customers, because sometimes beacons are used for museums, sometimes they use for retail, sometimes for industry. So they're very specific requirements that usually are built up on our on our path platform.
Steve Statler 10:19
So you're operating in a very challenging market, there's all of you who've tried to do what you do and not done so well. Some of them have gone out of business fairly, fairly recently. It sounds like you're seeing fairly healthy level of, of business. How do you compete with the Polish weekend vendors and all the other folks that are the landscape of probably hundreds of companies that yeah, yes,
Alessio Cucini 10:48
There are a lot of companies, a lot of big companies in this in this market. So clearly, our our strategy is to compete, finding Nick's of market where we can provide the best product for the specific application. And we have some features that for example, other competitors does not have we have we support not only IB candidate soon, but also the Koopa technology, which is very important, in our view for many application in the real time location system market. This is a feature that we can we are I think, a couple of three companies around the world that we have. And another service that we do is the customization of our products. So clearly, there is no no one beacon that can solve every problem. So every day, we get emails from customers or potential customers that would like to have a specific beacon, which specific functionalities. And clearly this is our or one or our strength is the ability and the capability to address these kind of problems.
Steve Statler 12:10
And, yeah, I'd love to get your views on where the market is going, what your predictions for the future are, before we go there. Let me just ask you about this, some of the other standards you support. So you're seeing IB, can you support Eddie? Stan, I remember seeing your you were one of the few vendors that supported all the different aspects. How are you seeing the adoption of Eddystone, I always felt like Google just did so much more in terms of their support of Beacon use cases than apple that Apple had iBeacon. And it's very limited. It's still a one day low standard. They've got everything from kind of telemetry packets, and physical web and encryption and registry management features get interfaces are people using Eddystone?
Alessio Cucini 13:06
Okay, clearly iBeacon is still maybe the dominant technology on the market. Yeah, for the reason is this was the first one. And the other main reason is that is natively supported by Apple forms. But we are seeing an increasing interest in the near distance, which is especially related to the nearby or physical weapon, or we have a lot of customers in Italy, but also around a Europe that are focusing on this kind of market on these kind of applications. And typically they use Eddystone URL or ID. And we see that in for that kind of market. Eddystone maybe is dominant, while for other standard markets, such as identification or standard proximity applications. I think that iBeacon is still the first technology on the market.
Steve Statler 14:06
And we were talking about this earlier, but I think it's worth me asking you on camera, what what's your sense of the proportion of customers that go for encryption? Some kind of because you have your own proprietary encryption mechanism, you've got Youngstown femoral ID, what proportion of customers go for that versus just having a static?
Alessio Cucini 14:35
Yeah, yeah, we have the full support for the Eddystone technology, including the femoral ID. Yeah, it's been most one here that we have this kind of feature. But at present we have the large majority of our customers do use the static packet format, that can be high beacon or a distant We have some customers that who require encryption. But for some specific application, for example, we have a customer that use encrypted encrypted packets to enable in app payments in petrol stations. So they want to be ever they want to be as secure and trusted localization of the customer inside the petrol station. So in that case was very critical to have an encrypted packet format. But in the large majority of cases, I see that the customers still require a static packet for
Steve Statler 15:42
So Alessio, we talked a bit about the shift to enterprise any other views on where the ecosystem is going the beacon ecosystem?
Alessio Cucini 15:53
Well, I think that the be consistent is a very enthusiastic phase. So there are lots of ideas, a lot of projects that are starting, for example, we have projects in markets that we didn't ever think about the the in the past. And so I think that are huge opportunities for this market. And there are many Nick's in many, also specific applications where the beacons will be a dominant technology. For example, locating system and the, in the event where we are now it's one of the more important I think, in the sector is marketing, a kind of application where beacons will be will be one of the key technology in the coming future. Clearly, because they're very simple, very cheap, can be interfaced directly with phones. And so it's it's it's a technology where we'll be used beacons. And I think I still think that the industry industrial application will be the primary market for beacons and tags in the in the future, because there are a lot lot of application where beacons can be can be used, from safety to security, to process management, for asset tracking and indications, people identification, guest unification, and so on. So I think that in that specific market, because we'll be the dominant, the dominant technology in the upcoming years.
Steve Statler 17:58
Very good. Well, on that note, Alessio cucine, Managing Director of blew up. Thanks very much. Thank you,
Alessio Cucini 18:03
Steve, thank you very much to you.
Steve Statler 18:12
If you're on a space trip to Mars, which three songs would you take with you? So for whatever reason, there's a limitation of three songs. And it's got nothing. This has got nothing to do with Bluetooth beacons. And it's just kind of a traditional we have everyone that we interview, we asked this question I've interviewed, like, set over 70 people. So I'm sorry to hit you this with this at the last moment. But if you can think of three songs that you like that you might take on a long journey. What would those be?
Alessio Cucini 18:49
Okay. I don't know if I can mention three songs. Maybe three, three groups. It's okay. That's fine. Oh, yeah, for sure. You too. It's. Yeah. The group of my really? Yeah. And then I put their Beatles for sure. Yes. And the WHO? Who gets
Steve Statler 19:14
I love the WHO too.
Alessio Cucini 19:15
I love told me how.
Steve Statler 19:17
Okay, well, if it was two of us going to Mars, we get on well, because I like all three of those choices. Very good. Thanks very much.
Alessio Cucini 19:25
Steve Statler 19:25