Kontakt.io launches first beacon-only physical showroom
The Berlin-based facility offers iPads, beacons and applications so that visitors can experience the range of uses for the location-based tech.
Krakow, Poland-based Kontakt.io opened this week in Berlin what it describes as the first beacon-only physical showroom.
The company, which bills itself as “the world’s largest provider of beacon technology,” located The Proximity Studio on the third floor of a building in the trendy Kreuzberg-area of that famous city. There’s also an online version of the Studio, which, of course, cannot offer the physical experience.
“Today beacons are misunderstood,” Kontakt.io CEO Szymon Niemczura said in a statement accompanying the opening.
Most businesses, he added, think of beacons as “retail tools for sending coupons,” so Proximity Studio is designed to educate businesses about how they can be used for logistics, workspace management, healthcare and other non-coupon uses. Berlin, he added, was chosen because of its tech startup environment, business community and its growing need for Internet of Things solutions.
His company, which maintains offices in New York City and Guadalajara, as well as Krakow and Berlin, says it has about 17,000 global customers. In August, the company released an expanded product line that married beacon tech with IFTTT, light and motion sensors, NFC and RFID.
The Studio, about 500 square feet divided into five rooms, currently houses several dozen Kontakt-made beacons, which support both iBeacon and Eddystone protocols. The Studio makes iPads available for visitors’ use, and the tablets currently contain eight beacon-supporting applications from the Studio’s partners — digital menu provider Menu Technologies, mobile commerce provider Proxama, museum guide app provider Xponia and others. Kontakt.io said it eventually hopes to offer as many as a hundred different apps.
The idea, Kontakt.io Enterprise Business Development Manager Maciej Walczewski told me, is that clients considering beacon technology can get a better idea about beacons’ range of uses in a showroom, compared to simply reading about the tech.
For example, the Studio has artwork on its walls, so a visitor can walk around and learn more about each work through the beacon-interacting Xponia app on the iPad.
When clients read about beacons, Walczewski said, they generally “lack a full understanding of what a beacon does.”
“The theory behind it is somewhat confusing,” he added, and it’s “difficult for people to make the jump from the theory to understanding” that beacons and apps can be used for indoor navigation, for keylessly opening a lock or for order processing in a restaurant, among many other uses.
A standard beacon is a small Bluetooth radio transmitter that sends, at regular intervals, a brief signal that indicates its location. The signal can be used by a smartphone or tablet’s app to trigger various actions via 3G/4G or the site’s WiFi, such as updating an indoor map or loading a coupon for a product in the aisle where you’re standing. Here’s a card-sized beacon from Kontakt.io:
Beacons utilizing the Google-promoted Eddystone protocol can also transmit a URL to an Eddystone-supporting browser. This can allow a user to see, for example, a web page of a restaurant’s menu when you’re standing on sidewalk outside.
Walczewski told me that, while some other companies like Cisco offer physical showcases for a variety of Internet of Things technologies and for IoT training, the Proximity Studio is the only beacon-specific facility available for exploratory visits by businesses. Except for occasional open-to-the-public themed events at the Studio, visitors require appointments.