Retail Remains The Highest User Of Proximity Solutions, But Healthcare, Airports Begin Catch Up

Meanwhile, adoption of Google’s Eddystone has been naturally instantaneous, challenging Apple’s iBeacon format as ‘the industry standard.’

Proxbook debuts today.
Proxbook is a directory covering the providers of proximity services.

Four months after its debut, Proxbook, a database designed to help agencies and marketers make better sense of global companies that offer location marketing services, is reporting a 380 percent jump in the number of proximity sensors from 879,500 to 3,349,000 around the world.

While far from ubiquitous, the numbers, which reflect the reports from the 205 proximity provider companies in the Proxbook directory, point to the rapid adoption by mainstream businesses and the addition of new providers looking to find their niche. (Incidentally, the number of companies listed in Proxbook at the end of Q2 was 142.)

The directory is intended to remain free and user-generated by any tech company that works in location-based services, from beacons to geo-targeting to NFC/mobile payments, said Thomas Walle, whose company, Unacast’s worked with the Location Based Marketing Association and the geo-focused consultancy New Location Essentials to create Proxbook.

Among the highlights from the Q3 Proxbook report, which can be downloaded from the directory’s homepage:

  • The average amount of sensors per proximity solution provider (an umbrella term for companies in the space) has grown by 260 percent from 6,200 sensors per PSP to 16,300.
  • 18 companies offer online retargeting based on proximity signals, something Unacast has been working on since its debut.
  • While NYC and London are vying for “global proximity capital city” with 15 proximity providers in the Big Apple and 11 in The Old Smoke (disclosure: we had to Google London’s nickname), the countries with the greatest amount of sensor companies based there are in France (813,500 — more than in the whole of North America), the US 799,000, and China 475,000.


Proximity Solutions Provider specifications Q3 2015 (Q2 in parentheses). Source: Proxbook
Proximity Solutions Provider specifications Q3 2015 (Q2 in parentheses). Source: Proxbook

Beacon Platform Battle

Unacast's Thomas Walle
Unacast’s Thomas Walle

In a comparison of the four primary proximity beacon standards — Apple’s iBeacon, Google’s Eddystone (and the search giant’s older proximity system, UriBeacon), and AltBeacon all experienced upward movement during Q3.

Eddystone, which was introduced by Google in the middle of July, posted a 630 percent gain in the number of companies supporting it compared to Q2, going from 7 to 51.

“The significant adoption rate indicates that this protocol has the potential of becoming the new industry standard,” writes Thomas Walle, the head of Unacast and Proxbook.

That’s not to say that iBeacon, which was created and supported by Apple in 2013, is losing any ground. According to Proxbook, iBeacon rose 43 percent from 137 to 196 during Q3. “Despite the rapid adoption rate of Eddystone, iBeacon is still the industry standard with 96 percent of the companies supporting the protocol,” Walle notes.

That said, the other two beacon platforms are hardly obsolete (at least for now). UriBeacon was the Google Eddystone of 2014 and the search giant continues to support it. As a result, 56 percent more companies now use UriBeacon, from 32 to 50 during A2.

Altbeacon, released last year as well by Radius Networks, is an open beacon platform, but its presence remains very small with only a dozen companies actively using it.

Proximity Comes To Healthcare, Travel

When it comes to applying indoor communication technology, retail is where the action started and continues to be. But other verticals, particularly healthcare and airports, are showing how the Internet of Things is becoming the Internet of Everything.

Proximity providers who work with retailers have increased to 69 percent from a 61 percent share since the previous quarter. Shopping malls are a separate category and command 61 percent of proximity services . And those businesses still dominate in the use of proximity versus the other 19 industry verticals covered in Proxbook. But the largest increase has within a single category in Q3 was in healthcare, which saw a doubling of 36 to 72 companies offering their services to this area.

Tech savvy travelers may be pleased by the industry with the second biggest jump: airports, which nearly employed twice as many proximity service providers in Q2 with 104, up from 54 in Q2.

Still, retail, which has 69 percent of proximity companies focusing on brick-and-mortar shops, is likely to be the advanced guard of beacons and other indoor sensor marketing solutions for some time.

The primary reason is that retail has gotten the message about the necessity of omnichannel marketing, of which proximity plays a big part. But compared to heathcare and airport facilities management, the stakes are comparatively lower. That means retail will continue to experiment and push the envelope on mobile app-based engagement tools, while more sensitive businesses quickly follow on what is possible and what appears to resonate with consumers in this on-demand economy.

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.