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What will 2014 bring for indoor location technology?

Grizzly Analytics analyzes and reports on a lot of technology, but a lot of our attention recently has gone to indoor location technology. (If you're new to indoor location, you can think of it as GPS that works inside.) Here's a quick look at what we predict for indoor location technology in the new year:

Proximity beacons will be center stage for the first half of 2014:  Since Apple's iBeacon announcement, companies have been in a race to bring BLE-based proximity beacons to market. These beacons don't actually deliver indoor location positioning, since they don't tell you precisely where you are, but rather they tell you when you get close to a certain place, like a small store, a department in a store, or maybe a key product. Apple has a way of making a concept hot, so proximity beacons are bound to be big for a while. But more than that, they have the advantage of simplicity - they deliver a specific function, namely notifying an app on your phone when you're close to something significant, and they do it reliably. And proximity beacon functionality can even be implemented on an iPad without any additional hardware. Geeks may say that location positioning is much more powerful, and they're right, but the simplicity and reliability of proximity beacons, along with Apple's blessing, will push them into the market strongly.

Indoor location apps will flood the market mid-year:  At the same time as proximity beacons are reaching the market, however, the number of companies bringing indoor location solutions to market is skyrocketing. In the previous Grizzly Analytics report on indoor location technology we reported over 50 start-up companies in the area, and our upcoming report (coming out soon) will add more than 30 more. Deployments are in progress at malls, major stores, exhibition centers, museums, airports, and other big sites all over the world, and many are set to launch in the upcoming months. We expect a spike in the number of malls and big stores that show you where you are on an app as you walk around. (See here, here, here and here for some examples of these systems.)

Industrial applications will follow slightly after that:  In addition to the companies bringing smartphone-based indoor location to market, there are many companies developing technology for hardware-based indoor location. By the end of the year we expect this to start reaching market, with the chips being launched today integrated into devices 6-9 months from now. This will include systems for tracking employee keycards and office equipment, sports players on the court, people and equipment moving around hospitals, and much more. (See here and here for two out of many examples.)

By year-end, and into 2015, hardware support for indoor location will reach smartphones:  Major chip companies in the mobile area are already bringing chips to market that include indoor location technology, and by the end of 2014 we'll see these chips being integrated into phones by major phone manufacturers. This will include both technology similar to today's, based on Wi-Fi and motion sensing, and also technology that is more advanced. (See here and here for some examples, but other chip companies such as Qualcomm, CSR and Samsung have entered the area as well.)

Start-up acquisitions will continue throughout the year:  M&A in indoor location has already started, with acquisitions by Apple, Aruba and others. This trend shows every sign of continuing. We expect to see Google acquire at least one company, maybe two, to add some strength to Android and Google Maps indoors. Microsoft is also likely to enter the area, to strengthen Windows Phone and Bing Maps. But other likely acquirers include phone makers, network makers, mobile advertising companies, and more.

New innovations will continue:  With all this action in indoor location, new methods will continue to emerge as well. Will approaches like modulated LED lighting succeed in the market? Will one of the cellphone manufacturers or mobile OS makers acquire technology that delivers indoor location even without Wi-Fi or BLE? Whatever happens, there's no reason to think that innovation in the area is complete.

Other mobile innovation will continue as well:  Indoor location is increasingly related to the Internet of Things, which will continue to develop in 2014 and 2015. See here and here for more. Gesture recognition is moving forward, with a number of big acquisitions in the past year (see here and here) that will likely reach market in the upcoming year. SmartWatches will have slow market adoption, but that will pick up at the end of the year as they become more user-friendly and accepted in the market. All in all, it will be an exciting year for mobile!

For more information on our upcoming update to our report on indoor location technology, e-mail info@grizzlyanalytics.com

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