Report: more than 13 million proximity sensors now deployed globally

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Proximity and beacon data platform Unacast has released its Q4 Proximity.Directory report. The document focuses on “smart cities” and how beacons and other location sensors are being deployed for a range of uses that include tourism, marketing, energy efficiency and urban planning. The previous quarterly report examined uses of beacons in airports.

Demographic predictions argue that 66 percent of the global population will reside in cities by 2050. Currently 82 percent of the US population lives in urban areas. Location technologies in smart cities thus have the potential to touch billions of people by the middle of the century if trends continue.

Proximity sensors, as defined in the report, includes WiFi hotspots and NFC technology, in addition to beacons. The report discusses a range of proximity sensor case studies to illustrate the varied uses of location technologies in urban environments. Among them are the following:

  • New York is deploying more than 1 million sensors to help to monitor data on air quality, traffic and energy consumption
  • Singapore is using 50,000 sensors and cameras to analyze traffic congestion and crowd density for public transit purposes
  • Barcelona has installed sensors to help forecast rainfall to control the city’s sprinkler systems and fountains for greater efficiency
  • San Francisco is implementing “smart parking” to monitor parking patterns and adjust the cost of dynamically-priced meters accordingly

The report also presents data on the overall state of beacons and sensor deployment. Apple’s iBeacon standard is currently supported by 88 percent of developers being tracked by Unacast; Google’s Eddystone is supported by 56 percent.

Unacast also reports that now the leading beacon hardware maker globally. Here are the top five:

  1. (Poland)
  2. Estimote (UK)
  3. Cisco Meraki (US)
  4. Accent Systems (Spain)
  5. Sensoro (US)

Among proximity software platforms, US-based Swirl is now the global leader according to Unacast. Below is the top 10 list:

  1. Swirl (US)
  2. Tamoco (UK)
  3. Proxama (UK)
  4. XtremePush (Ireland)
  5. Gimbal (US)
  6. Spark Compass (US)
  7. Place of Interest (Turkey)
  8. In The Pocket (Belgium)
  9. BluVision (US)
  10. Smart Beacon (Italy)

Unacast says there are now more than 13 million sensors in the wild globally. That includes beacons, WiFi hotspots and NFC-enabled devices. Beacons reportedly account for 61 percent of that total, Wi-fi sensors account for 22 percent and NFC devices 16 percent.

Beacons and proximity technology were originally imagined a way to push notification-based alerts to shoppers in malls and retail stores. That is turning out to be a minority use case for a number of reasons. Beacons are now more commonly being used for analytics and offline to online retargeting, among other things.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.


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