Qualcomm and SES-imagotag Team to Leverage New Bluetooth ESL Standard
Industry leaders have their sights set on standardizing smart store labels using the latest Bluetooth SIG standard.
Forming a powerful team to revamp the retail space, Qualcomm Technologies and SES-imagotag recently announced their goal of developing standards-based electronic shelf label (ESL) technology. This announcement came just days after the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) introduced the new wireless standard for the ESL market, and represents the first step toward a smart and scalable shopping experience.
An example e-paper ESL highlights the benefits of the technology, allowing store-level price adjustments without needing to manually deploy new labels. Image used courtesy of Bluetooth SIG
ESL technology in itself is not new but traditionally relies on vertically integrated solutions that inhibit flexibility and can inadvertently result in vendor lock-in, something that would be detrimental for a technology that is still in its early stages. By integrating the Bluetooth standard with ESL technology, multi-vendor systems can be used to provide interoperability without sacrificing performance.
This article takes a look at Bluetooth ESL technology, and how it serves to shake up the retail space. In addition, the expected contributions from Qualcomm Technologies and SES-imagotag are discussed to give readers an understanding of what we may see in the coming years.
Humans, for all their worth, are typically error-prone components of any system in which they are involved. (We even document this in the “Likely Failures in Proven Systems” section of our All About Circuits textbook!) For a large retail space, automation has the potential to remove several points of failure.
ESL technology serves as a way of minimizing pricing errors by allowing for store-level price adjustments from a single terminal. In addition, integration with IoT technology has been demonstrated to streamline inventory management and improve overall shopper satisfaction.
While the number of shipments of ESL technology continues to rise, this number is only a fraction of the potential market, making ESLs a valuable development effort. Image used courtesy of ABI Research
Despite its benefits, an unstandardized ESL ecosystem isn’t interoperable, creating a major weakness whereby existing systems can’t take advantage of the latest technologies if they aren’t offered by their ESL provider. As such, integration with Bluetooth, a platform that has become a household name thanks to its interoperability, stands to act as a springboard to turn ESL technology into the norm for shoppers and open the doors for integration with other IoT tech.
Kicking Off the Efforts
Two of the biggest names in the ESL effort are Qualcomm Technologies and SES-imagotag, both of whom have experience with smart retail technology. With their united efforts in the ESL working group, Bluetooth ESL is expected to receive a major improvement in performance.
Existing digital price tags from SES-imagotag provide solutions from 1.6 to 12.2 inches, making them a versatile solution on which to integrate the Bluetooth standard for ESLs. Image used courtesy of SES-imagotag
Qualcomm Technologies has already demonstrated retail solutions both for front- and back-of-store operations, giving some valuable prior experience to a group with such an ambitious goal. SES-imagotag is expected to leverage its Vusion IoT Cloud platform to provide a foundation for a fully connected retail solution with dynamic pricing, inventory management, and even in-store marketing reminiscent of stadium displays.
Adding More to the Bluetooth Portfolio
While the upper limit for what ESLs can accomplish is still unknown, designers should be excited about the announcement from the Bluetooth SIG. New applications for a technology as pervasive as Bluetooth create a new frontier for engineers to get creative and think of new features to add to their latest widgets.
Outside the published goals, one can only speculate what will emerge following the adoption of ESL tech. Perhaps it will only enhance the in-store experience, but I’m inclined to speculate that designers may take advantage of the new information stream to continue innovating outside the retail space.
Whether that means we can know which store has the best deals without leaving our homes, or if we’ll be able to have an optimal path through the store mapped for us is yet to be seen, but regardless, Bluetooth ESL sounds like a benefit to designers and users alike.