Bluetooth beacons are teetering on the brink of ubiquity, with shipment volume expected to grow exponentially by 2020

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Beacons are an exciting, new-ish technology that allows retailers and other organizations to detect where a customer is, provided they’re within the beacon’s range. They can then send push notifications to the customer with relevant information, promotions and the like, creating a more interactive retail experience.

Beacons have been in the spotlight since Apple first release its iBeacon in 2013. But now the technology is poised to explode, as both Google and Microsoft have entered the market with their own beacon standards.

Bluetooth beacon devices market by technology standard 2015 (share of shipments)

Source: Technavio

In terms of shipments, the global Bluetooth beacon market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 307.2% from 2015-2020. About 80,000 units were shipped in 2015, and this number is expected to skyrocket to 88.29 million units by 2020.

Market growth will peak in 2017, and then start a slow decline once the initial novelty factor wears off. However, the CAGR will remain well above 100% over the next five years.

Bluetooth beacon devices market by volume 2015-2020 (millions of units)

Source: Technavio

And while retail is currently the main end-user of beacons and a primary driver of such intense growth, we expect to see a lot more adoption from non-retail applications. These include users in sports, manufacturing, telecom, airlines, IT, logistics, hospitality, and health and wellness. In fact, there are very few industries that don’t stand to benefit in some way from beacons.

Bluetooth beacon devices market segmentation by end-user 2015-2020

Source: Technavio

So now that we’ve covered the what and how of the global beacons market, let’s talk about the who. Technavio’s analysts have identified the top vendors making key contributions to beacon adoption and growth worldwide.

Blue Sense Networks

The European company specializes in manufacturing Bluetooth beacon devices and software. Founded in 2013 and headquartered in the UK, the company has more than 500 customers across 30 countries. Its iBeacon-certified beacon device is sold under the brand name BlueBar. The company is the UK’s leading proximity software and hardware provider.


Estimote was established in 2012 and is headquartered in New York, US.

The company offers the following products:

  • Beacons and stickers: These are very small wireless sensors that can be attached to any location or object. They have a powerful ARM processor, a Bluetooth smart module, memory, and temperature and motion sensors. They are powered by a coin battery and broadcast radio signals with the help of built-in antennas. These signals are received by smart devices so that compatible installed apps can then respond.
  • SDK and software: Estimote’s SDK and cloud software grants apps full access to metadata, including object type, beacon ownership, and precise location. They also allow security and other services in addition to the basic function of the beacons.

General Electric

Founded in 1892 and headquartered in Schenectady, New York, the company operates through eight different business segments: Appliances, aviation, capital, energy management, healthcare, oil and gas, power and water, and transportation. GE started integrating iBeacons in new LED lighting fixtures destined for Walmart stores in 2014.


Gelo is a US-based startup that manufactures beacon hardware. Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Michigan, the company sells products under the iBeacon specification. The company markets its beacon technology under three major segments: powerful beacons, cloud platform, and flexible SDK.

Glimworm Beacons

Founded in 2011 and headquartered in Amsterdam Glimworm is a co-operation between Glimworm IT of Amsterdam and Tweetonig of Rotterdam. The company offers beacon devices with removable covers and changeable batteries. was established in 2013 and is headquartered in New York. The company offers a range of beacons for various applications, including:

  • Smart Beacon, which works under both iBeacon and Eddystone formats.
  • Cloud Beacon, which has three functions: monitoring, tracking, and analytics. It monitors beacons in its range, tracks Wi-Fi-enabled devices, and then reports the collected data to the cloud and delivers in-depth analytics.
  • Beacon Tough Beacon, which works under both iBeacon and Eddystone formats. It is anti-static and waterproof up to 32.8 feet.
  • Eddystone Tough Beacon, which is shatter-resistant and supports both iBeacon and Eddystone formats.

Onyx Beacon

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Romania, the company operates in nine countries globally. It provides beacon devices that have proximity ranges of up to 70 meters. In August of 2015, Onyx Beacon installed 600 beacon devices in 28 Carrefour hypermarkets in Romania.


The financial tech company is working on implementing strategic initiatives to enhance its presence in the retail sector. In September 2013, the company launched its newest hardware, Beacon, a BLE-enabled device for hands-free check-ins and payments. The company uses BLE technology, which enables connected devices to communicate with each other while maintaining low-level energy consumption. Any store running POS systems, including Booker, Leaf, Erply, Leapset, NCR, PayPal Here, Micros, Revel, ShopKeep, TouchBistro, and Vend, are compatible with PayPal. With Beacon, store receipts can also be handled electronically.

PLUS Location Systems (BlueCats)

PLUS Location Systems is headquartered in New South Wales, Australia.

The company’s offerings include:

  • AA Beacon, which can be mounted anywhere. It is powered by two AA replaceable batteries and is water-resistant.
  • USB Beacon, which can be powered by any USB socket and can transfer data from host devices to mobile devices.
  • BlueCats StarterPacks, which are built with three AA Beacons. The starter pack is available in a USB beacon version.


Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Berlin, Sensorberg is Europe’s iBeacon pioneer. Its beacon devices support all three beacon standards.

Qualcomm (Gimbal)

Qualcomm was incorporated in 1985 and is headquartered in San Diego, California. It manufactures and markets digital communications products and services worldwide. It also develops and markets several key technologies used in handsets and tablets.

In December 2013, the company’s subsidiary, Qualcomm Retail Solutions, launched Gimbal proximity beacons as a part of its Gimbal context-aware proximity platform. In March 2014, Qualcomm Retail Solutions was selected by MLBAM to provide iBeacon hardware. As per the agreement, the company facilitated the installation and training and deployed proximity beacons across ballparks in North America.