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Personal Beacons Are The Gateway To Wider Retail Acceptance, Says Signul

In-home use cases show that the technology can be used for more than just push notifications.

While overall beacon usage continues to grow each year — with 42 percent growth forecast by 2020 — retailers are still struggling to communicate the value of beacons to the average consumer, who might be completely unfamiliar with, or apathetic to, the technology. But what if consumers could learn to embrace beacons in the comfort of their own home?

That’s the central premise of Signul, an Indiegogo-funded startup born from the Internet of Things-focused Finger Food Studios and IoT Design Shop. Signul bills itself as the world’s first “personal beacon system,” allowing consumers the chance to install the devices in their own homes and program them for a variety of domestic purposes. Signul users can set reminders to pick up the dry cleaning when the beacon detects they’re leaving the house, turn on the lights when it detects them walking in the door, or send an email to work when they’re on their way.

Word Association

For consumers who know what a beacon is, “advertising is the first thing they think of when they hear the word,” said Graham Cunliffe, IoT Design Shop’s head of business development, and often that can leave a bad impression in a consumer’s head; associating beacons primarily with annoying notifications, intrusive ads on their personal device, or worst of all, security concerns. “The stories being told about them weren’t the sort of thing that would encourage consumers to embrace the technology.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. “The whole idea is to get users to understand the value of this piece of technology, this amazing platform, that consumers can use,” said Cunliffe.

Out of sight, out of mind

A negative view of beacons isn’t the only problem retailers might face. Other consumers simply have no idea what beacons are at all.

“The biggest challenge facing the adoption of beacons is user awareness and acceptance,” said Rebecca Edelman in a report for L2 about beacon advancement. “Activating beacons often requires multiple apps to be downloaded and the correct settings to be enabled, both of which require active participation from consumers.” Something that’s extremely hard to get when customers don’t even know where to begin with them.

“I remember when I told my mom we were running this Indiegogo campaign to make beacons,” said Cunliffe. “The first thing she said was ‘what’s a beacon?’”

But Signul found that that problem extended to more than just Cunliffe’s mom – even a lot of potential partners they spoke to about Signul sometimes were completely unaware of what beacons were.

“The biggest challenge facing the adoption of beacons is user awareness and acceptance,”

“We couldn’t pitch Signul without explaining what beacons are or can do,” Cunliffe said. “We’d end up giving them a whole education session.”

Most recently, Signul struck a deal to integrate their hardware with IFTTT (If This, Then That), a platform that allows simple online actions to be automatically performed if certain criteria are met. Cunliffe is hoping that the simple “recipes” that IFTTT provides will be an even more welcoming gateway for consumers into the world of beacons and location technology. If consumers can learn to love beacons in their own homes, they might be more open to them out in the world as well.

About The Author
Daniel Parisi Daniel Parisi @daniel_parisi_

Daniel Parisi is a New York City-based writer and recent graduate of the University of Maryland. Daniel specializes in coverage of mobile payments, loyalty programs, and the Internet of Things.