Standardizing the Shelf Edge
With the introduction of a wireless standard for the electronic shelf label (ESL) market, Bluetooth® technology is helping unlock the next phase in retail digital transformation to deliver better outcomes for both stores and shoppers.
What are Electronic Shelf Labels?
Electronic shelf labels (ESL) are small, battery-powered electronic paper (e-paper) displays that present product and pricing information at the shelf edge, replacing paper labels. ESLs use wireless technology to communicate with a central hub to form a dynamic pricing automation network.
Historically, retail shelf pricing relied on error-prone, labor-intensive paper price tags and manual processes that sometimes had to be performed several times in a typical day. Electronic shelf label solutions help brick and mortar stores fully automate pricing strategies to display the right price in the right moment and enable seamless omnichannel retailing.
More Efficient Operations
Manual inventory management slows operations and undetected stockouts bite away at profits. Electronic shelf labeling can streamline picking and fulfillment for click and collect shoppers while also accelerating shelf replenishments to optimize product availability on shelves and avoid missed sales.
Increased Shopper Satisfaction
A shopper’s experience at the shelf edge is one of the most critical influences on a purchase decision. Electronic shelf labels provide always-accurate pricing, increased access to real-time promotions and product information, and a more gratifying and cohesive omnichannel experience.
Source: SES Imagotag
Bluetooth® ESL – The Global Standard for the Electronic Shelf Label Market
ESL systems have historically relied on proprietary protocols for wireless communication, presenting a potential barrier to global adoption. To address this challenge, leaders from the ESL industry teamed with the Bluetooth SIG to create a scalable, ultra-low power, highly secure ESL wireless standard based on Bluetooth® technology.
The Importance of Standards in the Smart Retail Market
This paper looks at how the adoption of standards-based technologies will help reduce potential obstacles for retailers looking to invest in IoT technologies.
Establishing a true, global ESL standard gives retailers the freedom and confidence to source ESL components from multiple vendors knowing each component will work with the others. Backed by a proven product qualification program, Bluetooth®ESL is the standardized solution the market has needed to minimize barriers to adoption and build a frictionless, interoperable ESL ecosystem.
Lower Costs & Faster Innovation
With more than 5 billion Bluetooth® enabled devices forecasted to ship in 2023 alone, Bluetooth® ESL developers will benefit from the economies of scale that Bluetooth technology affords.* Increased supplier diversity leads to more attractive component pricing, driving down overall product costs. And by adopting a standardized approach for wireless communications, ESL vendors can now reallocate their engineering efforts to the development of more value-added, differentiating features and capabilities.
*Source: ABI Research
What the Industry is Saying
Retailers are increasingly looking towards Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to help them deliver operational efficiencies, increase conversion, and to encourage customers to return to stores. However, some retailers have been hesitant to adopt ESL technologies due to concerns over vendor lock-in, interoperability, scalability, and the ability to extend this to other smart retail initiatives. The introduction of the Bluetooth ESL standard will help reduce potential obstacles for retailers looking to invest in IoT technologies and accelerate adoption and innovation.
— Andrew Zignani, Research Director at ABI Research
At SES-imagotag, we are committed to helping the global retail industry realize the full potential of stores through digitalization and electronic shelf labeling. The standardization of ESL connectivity represents an additional avenue towards achieving that goal. We are honored to have brought our expertise and taken a leadership role in building a global standard with the Bluetooth SIG. We are excited to expand our platform capabilities using Bluetooth technology, enabling us to provide an even broader portfolio of IoT solutions tailored to our customers’ unique needs.
— Philipp Maurer, Vice Chair of the Bluetooth SIG ESL Working Group and VP of Engineering at SES-imagotag
We are proud to have collaborated with the Bluetooth SIG and its members to lead the standardization of ESL connectivity. Backed by a proven product qualification program and an unmatched installed base, Bluetooth® technology was the logical choice to build a frictionless, interoperable ESL ecosystem. By adopting a standardized approach for wireless communications, ESL development complexity is greatly reduced, allowing development teams to turn their attention to more value-added, differentiating features and capabilities for their customers.
— Art Miller, VP of Business Development and Head of Retail at Qualcomm Technologies
Interoperability and standardization are in the DNA of Bluetooth technology. Our members have a long, rich history of developing standards that enable market expansion and mass adoption of new product categories. The introduction of a wireless standard for the electronic shelf label (ESL) market will unlock the next phase in retail digital transformation to deliver better outcomes for both stores and shoppers.
— Mark Powell, CEO of the Bluetooth SIG
Defining the Standard
The Bluetooth® standard is defined in an upcoming Electronic Shelf Label Profile Specification, which leverages several new features recently released in Bluetooth Core Specification Version 5.4.
Featured Developer Resource
Bluetooth® Core Specification Version 5.4 – Technical Overview
This feature overview summarizes and explains the updates introduced in Bluetooth® Core Specification Version 5.4, including two new features that together enable secure, bi-directional communication between a wireless access point (AP) and thousands of very-low power end nodes.
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