The number of proximity sensors deployed globally is set to explode, with Q4 2015 seeing a 52 per cent increase as numbers exceeded 5m, up from 3.35m in the previous quarter. Media platform and beacon operator Unacast estimates that by 2020, there could be as many as 400m beacons deployed worldwide. (Editor's note: this is a correction of the incorrect figure of 660m initially supplied by Unacast.)
Unacast, which covers an estimated 90 per cent of the proximity industry with its Proxbook reports, shows that the exponential growth of the industry is thanks to an increasing number of large, brand-wide deployments such as Macy's, which has deployed beacons in all of its branches.
Of the 5.1m proximity sensors now deployed, 4m of those are Blutooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons, and while the beacon market is becoming more competitive, with proximity companies specialising in industry verticals to differentiate themselves, over 50 per cent of proximity solution providers are operating beacon networks, with large numbers of beacons over multiple locations.
While Apple's iBeacon solution saw good initial numbers, Google's Eddystone platform is eating into its market share, and will soon surpass it as the main beacon standard, despite launching only around six months ago. In Q4, 38 per cent of companies supported Eddystone, up from 25 per cent in Q3.
"Despite some media commentators questions when beacons will really take off, we now have definitive proof that this is happening right now," said Thomas Walle, co-founder and CEO of Unacast. "I believe 2016 will be a tipping point for the proximity industry when we will see more and more large scale commercial deployments and when real shoppers start to interact more regularly with the sensors around them and experience the benefits."