When looking at different beacons, don’t just consider the price of the beacon itself but the cost for setup, deployment, and maintenance. The actual cost of beacons in a solution is only one component, and may very well be the smaller cost overall.
Here are five areas to consider for when considering the cost of deploying beacons:
1. Configuration and Installation
Deploying 5 beacons in a single location is very straightforward. You program the identifiers and stick them to the wall. However, when doing large deployments, beacons must be installed in a particular location and have the correct identifiers to operate correctly. Imagine that a customer orders a cup of coffee for the wrong store that may be hundreds of miles away. If the beacons must be programed with the correct identifiers in the field, it requires someone with some technical knowledge. For most deployments, this would mean sending someone into the field to install them. This can drive deployment costs up.
Another option is to set each beacon in a central location and send them out to each store with instructions on installing each beacon to a specific location. This process can be error prone and must be repeated each time a new (or replacement) beacon is set up. This also drives up deployment costs. Another option is to have IT define the areas for beacon deployment, and the nontechnical resources in the field install the beacon and select the location to configure the beacon. This location is then looked up against the IT configuration and the correct identifiers are configured on the beacon. This allows IT to focus on the technical configuration and the local resources to focus on installing them in the known location, saving deployment costs and increasing ROI.
2. Support and Maintenance
One of the key areas that drives up support costs is battery replacement. A beacon broadcasting as iBeacon on battery power may only last for a few weeks. So every few weeks someone needs to open up the beacon and replace the battery. While the cost of the battery may be minimal, the support cost to replace the battery can drive costs up. Deploying beacons that use wired power or have long life batteries is critical to keeping these support costs down.
3. Monthly Fees
The total cost of the beacon may include a required service to “activate” the beacon. Services tend to offer the beacon at a discount price and require purchasing a service in order to use their beacons. Some even charge a per user/per beacon/per impression fee. This locks you into a specific vendor for your entire solution and can drive the cost up.
If beacons are out in the open and only attach to the wall with magnets or tape, it is easy for someone to disable or steal the beacon. The cost of the beacon replacement is only one factor. The beacon may need to be configured prior to replacement, and in the meantime, the solution that requires the beacon would not be fully operational. Securing the beacon is important, and this includes placing the beacon inside displays or cabinets or physically securing the beacons to the wall.
A beacon is designed to broadcast specific identifiers over a long period of time. The identifiers normally do not change unless the beacon is moved or replaced. However, the software (called “firmware”) that runs inside the beacon may need to be updated. Changes in how the iBeacon protocol is broadcasted, power management improvements, security issues, or a range of other changes can require a firmware update. Some beacons are not upgradeable, so are upgradable only by removing from the field and connecting to a computer, and some are upgradable in the field (called “Over the Air” upgradable). It can be a very large expense if you need to remove and update all of the beacons that you have deployed.
So when considering a beacon, look for a solution that fits your need and budget, and consider the total cost of beacon deployment rather than just the price of the beacon itself.
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