Report: Proximity Solutions Industry Evolving Beyond Retail Marketing

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As the proximity solutions industry undergoes rapid expansion, providers are changing up the technologies they rely on. Meanwhile, industries as varied as healthcare, marijuana, and aerospace defense manufacturing are finding new applications for proximity technology as they track the physical locations of people and assets.

A new report by Proximity.Directory takes a close look at the state of the proximity industry, and specifically the real world application of location technologies. The findings, released just this morning, paint the picture of an expanding industry with solutions that are applicable far beyond the world of retail marketing.

“We’ve reached the stage of the location space where accuracy and quality of data is in the spotlight. The only way get where we need to get as an industry is creating transparency around the technology, especially the data that is yielded,” says Thomas Walle, CEO and co-founder of Unacast, the proximity platform behind Proximity.Directory.

Aggregating information from more than 400 proximity solutions providers in 55 countries, Walle and his team found that beacons are still the most popular proximity technology, with 91% of companies delivering these solutions. But WiFi use is on the rise. Compared with the same period last year, the number of WiFi sensors deployed has increased by more than 25x, while beacons have increased just 1.7x. The number of near field communication (NFC) sensors has remained relatively stable.

“Beacons offer deterministic results at an affordable cost,” Walle says. “The entire concept is very tangible and easy to understand at face value: you place the hardware where you want then you collect the data. There’s obviously more to it than that and the beacon space is evolving along with the other technologies in the industry, but from a practicality and accuracy standpoint, beacon technology is still in the lead.”

The United States is a global leader in the number of registered proximity solutions providers, with 142 registered companies versus just 44 in the United Kingdom and 19 in Canada. Worldwide, there are close to 700,000 WiFi sensors deployed and 10 million beacons.

In addition to ranking companies based on factors like number of clients and sensors deployed, the Proximity.Directory report also took a close look at how proximity technology is being used by firms in a number of industries. In the healthcare, marijuana, and aerospace defense manufacturing industries, specifically, the technology is increasingly being deployed for asset and people tracking. The report notes that the $9.1 trillion global logistics industry is set to save billions thanks to the implementation of proximity solutions, and connected devices and IoT have the potential to create $8 trillion in economic value globally by 2025.

Through a series of case studies, the Proximity.Directory report describes healthcare agencies using location technology to locate patients or specific pieces of medical equipment, marijuana growers using RFID tags for passive location monitoring, and aerospace defense manufacturers using beacons for warehouse asset tracking.

“They are all very, very, different industries. That said, they are using a common technology to solve for their individual pain points,” Walle says. “That’s fascinating and indicative of how flexible this technology is from both a hardware and data perspective.”

So where does the industry go from here? Walle sees proximity solutions providers as having reached the point where accuracy is of key importance, and he says the industry needs to create more transparency around its technology, especially in terms of the data that is being generated.

“The location industry is moving quickly,” Walle says. “Now we are having sophisticated conversations on the nuances around data analytics and the bar has been raised. We see location and proximity changing the way various industries think about offline behavior, and our mission is to help propel that future.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.