Beacons Are Taking Off At Airports

Retail is still the dominant space for beacon uses, but 84 percent of global airports are undertaking either a commercial deployment or a trial project related to proximity sensors, according to Proxbook's Q3 report

Three years after beacons began influencing the omnichannel strategies of retailers, the proximity marketing sensors are poised to do the same for way finding and commerce in airports.

According to Unacast’s Q3 2016 Proxbook Report, which is based in information from more than 350 Proximity Solution Providers, the most recent period experienced its highest growth to date, with 3.5M proximity sensors globally (total 11.8M) registered by members.

Much of that growth is the result of other business categories beyond retail making use of beacons, said Unacast CEO Thomas Walle, who noted that 84 percent of global airports are undertaking either a commercial deployment or a trial project related to proximity sensors. So far, 35 percent of the top 20 American airports have already deployed beacons.

“With an ‘always connected’ customer base of travelers, proximity technology presents a massive opportunity for transportation providers and their partners to communicate with passengers in real time,” Walle said. “We already see that the transportation industry is a leading vertical in being smart with their data by monetizing their infrastructure. What is even more impressive, is the fact that majority of the transportation companies currently planning their deployments are already looking to capitalize on the data.”

Among the toppling findings the Q3 Proxbook report’s look into the way transportation is adopting beacons:

  • 35 percent of the top 20 American airports have already deployed beacons
  • 90 percent of global airports are undertaking either a major program or a trial project related to mobile apps
  • Nearly half of airports (48 percent) are implementing commercial sensor deployments over the next three years
  • 36 percent of airports are implementing a proximity pilot project. Only 16 percent of airports have no plans with sensor technology currently.
  • Half (49 percent) of airports planning to directly contact passengers via their mobile phone over the next three years
  • According to SITA By 2019 84 percent of airports plan to monetize the data collected through mobile interactions and proximity interactions within the next three years.

From The Sky To The Ground Below

Airports aren’t the only growth area for beacons.

An exploratory analysis by New York’s MTA found that the transit system could increase its annual revenue by as much as $350M when increasing the ticket price as little as 5 percent by adding a proximity program.

Like most proximity marketing programs, success involves offering consumers a value exchange, Walle notes. For example, the MTA could increase straphangers’ satisfaction by using real-time data, loyalty programs, and in-door navigation. Marketing that data presents an interesting opportunity for brands/retailers and other interested parties looking to reach everyday riders.

“The Zurich main station is Switzerland’s largest and most complex train station and Swiss Federal Railways SBB hub for innovative services,” said David Wenger, Marketing & Communication at Zurich Main Station, in the Proxbook report. “Together with Infsoft GmbH, we equipped the train station with over 200 shops with more than 1,200 Beacons to provide indoor navigation and location based special deals through the app ‘My station.’ The project was very successful and in the next step, we want to expand the location based services to offer better interaction with our customers.”

The State of The Proximity Industry

While the introduction of Google’s Eddystone beacon platform last year shot the proximity industry into “phase two,” it’s the companies themselves that have aggressively scaled up their services.

Here’s Proxbook’s ranking:

Top 5 Hardware:

1) Estimote (US)

2) (Poland)

3) Accent Systems (Spain)

4) Cisco (US)

5) Sensoro (US)


Top 10 Platforms:

1) Proxama (UK)

2) Gimbal (US)

3) In The Pocket (Belgium)

4) OnyxBeacon (Romania)

5) Tamoco (UK)

6) Spark Compass (US)

7) inBeacon (Netherlands)

8) XtremePush (Ireland)

9) BluVision (US)

10) Liki Solution (Finland)

For the most part, turning on a phone’s Bluetooth signal has been viewed a hurdle for beacon-based platforms to overcome. But Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 — and essentially force users to employ Bluetooth to connect their wireless headphones — could erase that friction point.

“I’m expecting that within the next 12 to 18 month, we won’t even be talking about Bluetooth,” Walle says. “Bluetooth on or off, that’s going to be irrelevant. That’s how quickly we will see Bluetooth adoption will happen. The whole handset industry is moving away from the jack and moving towards the Bluetooth with smartwatches, with connected cars, with connected stereos. The fact the cell phone batteries are becoming way, way better. This is one of those discussion we will have in a year or two and say, ‘Oh do you remember when you have to turn Bluetooth on?’ This will be default on in the future. Within a short, short future.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.