Proximity Industry
Founded by Thomas Walle Jensen and Kjartan Slette, Unacast is the world’s largest proximity network which is on the mission of uniting proximity companies to build a stronger industry. Unacast recently raised a new round of financing at $5 million. As a thought leader in BLE industry Mindbowser has always been in lookout for the best inputs to share with fellow BLE enthusiasts. Unacast took initiative and shared their journey with us. Here it is from Romet Kallas, Product Manager of Proxbook.

Who is Unacast and what are you doing at the moment?

At Unacast we are building the backend for the entire proximity industry. We believe that understanding data from the physical world will not only be revolutionary for the advertising industry, but for almost all applications. We recently launched the Sensor API, which will help all of our partners to maintain and maximize the value of their proximity data – We also operate Proxbook, the world’s largest directory of Proximity companies / Solution Providers with over 300 members.

What was the motivation behind building the world’s largest proximity network ?

After the launch of iBeacon, followed by the Physical Web, the number of proximity companies skyrocketed. Today, there are over 500 proximity companies working in isolated silos, collecting data in over 500 different ways. We saw this as an opportunity and also as a necessity, that in order for the proximity industry to achieve scale, it needs to be united.

Technologies and innovations you think will disrupt the proximity industry

Starting with the recent launches of Google’s Eddystone-EID, beacon platform and Nearby API, we see that the advertising giant has really started to prioritise proximity. This is a huge validation that proximity is indeed the future for context; whether it is for navigation, customer communication, city planning, e-commerce, remarketing or optimizing venue/shop layouts. The possibilities are endless really and with Google actively improving the Eddystone protocol and launching new products, it will benefit the industry as a whole. For example, Google is supposedly working on another improvement to make the Eddystone-URL experience more seamless on iOS. We also expect after so many improvements from Google, that Apple will not be a spectator in this battle of relevance. Does this mean iBeacon 2.0? Perhaps.
When it comes to technologies people often associate only beacons with  proximity. When in fact there are all kinds of sensors like NFC, Wi-Fi, beacons and even QR-codes that generate valuable proximity data. There are also technologies that fewer know about; using audio triggers to communicate with smartphones, using earth’s magnetic field for accurate navigation etc. Also, integrated beacons will become more popular as leading proximity hardware providers confirm, that sensors are already being integrated into larger objects, like LED-lightning structures, furniture, luggage, keyfobs, kitchen appliances and even T-shirts.

Challenges for the proximity industry

Beacons are the latest and most popular form of proximity sensors, but definitely not the last. As there will be even more sensors and more technologies in the proximity landscape, the industry faces an increasing challenge of fragmentation geographically and vertically wise. As a reference there are currently 5 million beacons deployed world-wide and that number is expected to be 400 million by 2020 (See more in the Proxbook Report Due to fragmentation, the most valuable source of data – proximity data – sits in silos all across the world. Therefore, solution providers risk out on missing additional revenue. That is a challenge that we are determined to solve with already over 50 partners and roughly 30% of all global beacons in the Unacast PROX network.
Competition is higher than ever. We see already over 500 companies providing different proximity solutions; being able to differentiate your services will be vital.
Proximity companies need to prioritize security and privacy. It doesn’t matter if your CMS is highly capable or you have the best hardware in the market; if your solution is not secure then you risk losing business. This is where every company in the proximity industry holds a responsibility, as a breach in security in a large scale deployment will affect the reputation for the entire ecosystem.
Being able to provide value. In the beginning beacons were all about push notifications. We see a trend that push notifications are decreasingly less popular and more emphasis is set on analytics; getting to know the customers movements, preferences and being able to personalize future communication.

What is your one advice to proximity businesses ?

As the amount of proximity businesses keeps growing it is important to define your unique selling point and focus on (a) certain vertical(s). Retail is of course one of the most obvious and popular, but there are dozens of other industries where proximity can optimize customer experience, employee efficiency and even safety.

What’s the next  thing on Unacast’s radar ?

So far we have mainly been working with beacon companies. As we recently closed our Series A, we now have the resources to potentially diversify our partner network with companies that work with sensors like NFC, Wi-Fi and others. And of course we are hiring!

Romet Kallas is a Product Manager of Proxbook, the world’s largest directory of proximity companies with +300 members. Working closely with hundreds of solution providers, he is aware of the challenges that the industry faces and has a thorough overview of the global proximity industry.

Proxbook is initiated by Unacast, the backend of Proximity. Unacast powers the world’s largest proximity network, enabling brands and retailers to retarget customers online based on offline behaviour.

Also check out Unacast Blog to stay updated with cool stuff.

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