October 15, 2016 | 7 minute

What is Proximity and IoT?

scroll to top

You can’t read a magazine these days without seeing the phrase IoT. We’re here to answer three common questions: What is the Internet of things? What is proximity? And why do they matter?

What is Proximity and the IoT (Internet of Things)?

Every year, we’re seeing all new kinds of technology emerge. More importantly, these technologies are changing the way we interact with the world and with each other. The now famous “Internet of Things” represents a huge shift in how we imagine technology and its role in the world. This is important not just on the individual-level but for businesses, visitors, employees, and everything in between.

Then, there’s proximity. The IoT is tearing down a wall when it comes to communications. Proximity technology is about making interactions more practical. It’s about using data that is physically relevant and timely. In short, it’s the missing piece of the physical-to-digital puzzle.


What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?


The Internet of Things (or IoT for short) is a term for a variety of technologies that describe a number of different ways to connect physical things to the internet. As a result, any item can become smart and context-aware, providing highly personalized experiences and gathering rich data about what’s happening in the real world.

In reality, the IoT is a pretty simple concept. All kinds of items or “things” are wirelessly connected. For consumers, this can mean a lot of exciting results: smart homes, smart offices, smart entire lives. Your wearable talks to your spoon talks to your daily planner. Everything is automated. And that’s where the term Internet of Everything comes from.


Why is the IoT really important?


Beyond the shiny consumer sphere, the IoT is leading to very meaningful changes and serious shifts in how we view the world. It’s not just about the rise of AI and machine learning. It’s about bridging the physical and the digital. Your movements in the real world will have a digital result, and your digital actions will create physical changes. Yes, the IoT is about your wearables, but it’s also about building a completely new kind of ecosystem.

One key component here is the power of proximity. Whether it’s push notifications, indoor navigation, or anything else powered by a smart device, proximity information enables a new world of opportunities. This leads us to our next question…


What is Proximity?


Some call it proximity marketing, but, in fact, its opportunities extend far beyond the reach of just marketing.

Proximity means that an IoT-enabled object reacts and changes according to your location. Let’s look at a smart home for example. You can “teach” your home to adjust the lighting based on your preferences and time, but wouldn’t it be better if the lights switched on as you walk into your apartment or change automatically as you go from room to room?

By adding another layer of contextual information to IoT-enabled objects, it gets them to serve you and your needs at the right place and the right time. This technology already exists, so it’s up to businesses and consumers to find the most important use cases.


So what is Proximity Marketing?


Proximity marketing is by no means new. Local and in-store advertising have been snagging customers at the moment where it matters most for decades. Vague advertisements you see on a television or a pop-up ad could be appealing, but they are rarely tailored to you and your present situation. They are less actionable and require you to get up and actually visit the store or other location.

Proximity is about reaching a user or customer based on their actual physical relationship to other objects. For example, are they on a bus? Are they approaching a particular coffee shop? Are they exiting your store? Technology means businesses can choose when to send which messages and to whom in order to achieve the best results and satisfy customers.


Reach more customers with proximity notifications.
Download our guide now.


How technology makes proximity happen?


There are several ways to bring proximity to a solution. Geofencing, NFC, and QR codes have been adding proximity to solutions for years. The moment you enter a space, your phone buzzes with a message. These methods, however, aren’t always practical. NFC and QR are passive, meaning users can walk right by an important message. Geofencing isn’t capable of targeting a specific location, limiting the kinds of messages that can be sent. But Bluetooth is now stepping up to the plate.


The role of beacons


Bluetooth beacons play a hugely important role in both the future of the IoT and proximity. Beacons have been of growing importance in proximity for a number of reasons including:

  • High penetrations rates: over 90% of smartphones are equipped with Bluetooth
  • Long range: Bluetooth can broadcast up to 100m
  • Energy efficiency: BLE is far more energy efficient than many other methods


All of these factors also make Bluetooth the prime candidate for standard of the IoT revolution. As items become smarter, they’ll all need to speak the same language. Bluetooth can connect all the moving parts and ‘things’ to create a consumer-friendly network and power the automation required to create fully seamless, wireless ecosystem.


Proximity and relevance


On top of just being cool, proximity offers serious dividends to companies who invest in it wisely. Proximity means knowing where your customers and assets are and interacting with them in ways that are meaningful. Without proximity technology, marketing efforts can fall flat by not addressing the customer at the right moment in their journey.

For example, you design a campaign that offers real, valuable savings on your customers’ favorite products. You understand your audience and craft great visuals and copy. You’re set to launch with a bang. Then your customer comes on the premises. They receive a welcome message via text. The same text that everyone else receives. A general “hey, thanks for coming by! Here’s 10% off when you spend >$100.”

Customers move through the store and through the in-store advertising that repeats the same deal. It’s a great deal. But what makes it different? What makes it really actionable?

With Bluetooth, that same business could send out more timely and targeted messages. If the customer approaches the cafe, they may receive 10% off a coffee. If the customer has been viewing seasonal products online, they could be notified about promotions relevant to their expressed interests. This is the difference between vague promotions and smart proximity marketing. Beacons offer businesses the chance to use their creativity and power campaigns that benefit both parties.


What are the different types of Proximity Marketing?


There are several methods for adding proximity to a business or marketing campaign. If you’ve ever gone to use free WiFi and were met with a local ad, you’ve seen it first hand.

Common types of proximity marketing:

  • WiFi
  • NFC
  • Geofencing
  • BLE
  • QR


What is proximity’s role in your business? If you’re looking to learn more about the many methods commonly used in proximity marketing, check out our whitepaper on proximity notifications.