Forget wearables. Estimote, an early pioneer of Apple’s location-aware iBeacon technology, is back with a new product coined “nearables.”
These slim, flexible “Stickers” are smaller than Estimote’s wireless Beacons and, as the name suggests, can be stuck to almost any physical object. They’re colorful and shaped like pieces of a stained glass window; even if your friend spots one, the thoughtful design means it won’t stand out like a sore thumb.
Estimote Stickers aren’t limited to iBeacon though; co-founder Steve Cheney says that any packet format can be sent to “nearables” and they’re backwards compatible with its SDK (iOS/Android), as well as its own mobile apps.
So what makes them so different? For one, Estimote Stickers have integrated accelerometer and temperature sensors. Both of these should offer interesting advances in proximity-based apps and notifications; for store owners, an app could detail when and how often customers are picking up their products; if you’re waiting for some freshly baked bread to cool down, a cooking app could send you alerts while you take care of another task in the kitchen.
By using the CoreLocation aspect of iBeacon, the stickers can also make objects smarter and more efficient. For instance, approaching your trainers could wake the running app on your smartphone automatically. Knowing that you’ve just arrived at the office (let’s say you’re running late) could trigger other actions; a message could be sent to your colleagues to say you’re ready for a meeting, or it could adjust your to-do list and deadlines based on your arrival time.
GPS is a huge drain on battery life – it’s a problem “always-on” apps such as Foursquare and Moves have worked hard to tackle – but Bluetooth Low Energy could lift some of the burden while making everyday objects smarter.
A developer kit is being unveiled today with 10 Estimote Stickers for $99. Cheney says lower price points will be offered for bulk quantities and, as with all new technologies, the price should go down over time. “Eventually beacons the size of stickers will cost almost nothing,” he says.