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Lighting-Based Indoor Positioning Gains Momentum
Advances in technology are changing the consumer experience. Online shopping and omnichannel retailing are becoming increasingly important for consumers because of easily available product knowledge, price comparisons, coupons, and quick access to products. Another technological advancement changing the consumer experience and shifting the retail market is indoor positioning. In brick-and-mortar retailing, indoor positioning has gained traction in recent years as retailers adapt to the changing retail landscape and align their online and physical store shopping experiences. Lighting companies have taken notice of the changing retail landscape and are staking their claim to retail indoor positioning through visible light communication (VLC) and other indoor positioning technologies, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). The ability to combine these technologies for enhanced indoor positioning solutions is progressing the retail experience for consumers.
Partnerships and Acquisitions
The most recent partnership to advance light-based indoor positioning was announced by Philips on February 27, 2017. The company announced the creation of its Location Lab partner program, which brings together companies working to develop applications for Philips’ indoor positioning system utilizing VLC for “the power of GPS indoors,” as described by Philips. The new partnerships will enhance and customize indoor positioning across multiple industries, including retail spaces, offices, and malls. Philips’ location-based service partners with Aisle411, Favendo, Adactive, and other international companies. The IT and systems integration partners include SAP, Microsoft, and Capgemini, and the in-store technology partners include SES-imagotag and Zebra. Philips Lighting has also teamed with Blue Jay to improve operational processes.
Another lighting incumbent, Acuity Brands, has recently furthered its indoor positioning offerings. Acuity’s advancement of indoor positioning occurred through internal advancements as well as several acquisitions. In April 2015, Acuity Brands acquired ByteLight—a company developing indoor positioning technology—by combining VLC and BLE. In January 2016, Acuity acquired GeoMetri, which is a software and services platform provider for mapping, navigation, and analytics. These strategic acquisitions enable Acuity and Philips Lighting to be leaders in this space. On March 28, 2017, Acuity will host a webinar in conjunction with Navigant Research on adding value to a shifting retail market through indoor positioning.
In Europe, other retailers are deploying indoor positioning, working with a variety of lighting manufacturers for new systems. Zumtobel has deployed indoor positioning at E.Leclerc, which is a hypermarket in Langon, France. However, unlike Philips, Zumtobel used Bluetooth without VLC for indoor positioning because it prefers Bluetooth over newer VLC technology. OSRAM took a similar approach by using Bluetooth and not VLC for indoor positioning in Switzerland. A fashion retailer purchased the Bluetooth chipsets to install existing lights in 23 stores throughout Switzerland for indoor positioning. While OSRAM does sell luminaires with a built-in Bluetooth transmitter, these were not used for this project. In collaboration with Favendo, Philips has installed the company’s first indoor positioning system in the supermarket EDEKA Paschmann in Dusseldorf, Germany. The system will allow shoppers access to the location-based services, as well as allow employees to more quickly search for items.
While the deployment of indoor positioning systems utilizes the combined technologies of VLC and BLE, these systems are still limited. One of the major barriers to the quick adoption of these solutions is the privacy concerns of consumers. Educating consumers about these technologies and the benefits enabled through indoor positioning will allow for greater adoption by retailers, and it is clear these solutions will be more commonplace in the future. Retailers are already capitalizing on the benefits these solutions provide to customers, employees, and retailers. This trend should continue as more companies realize the potential of lighting-based indoor positioning.