Proximity Marketing

The proximity marketing (proximity marketing) is a technical marketing that operates on delimited and specific geographic area through visual and type mobile communication technologies in order to promote the sale of products and services.

This marketing technique does not act on a well-defined target of users, but on individuals who are in a certain area and are in the vicinity of a device through which communication can be established; it is therefore a modern way of distributing paper advertising leaflets which, transformed into digital material, can become interactive through the most advanced proximity marketing devices such as (RFID, NFC, proximity audio, motion capture, eye tracking, iBeacon).


The proximity marketing can find application in many contexts, such as in cinemas (programming, trailers, advertising messages), shopping centers (discount coupons, product description), games shops (Java / Flash mobile games), fairs (maps of the stands, event planner, business card of the speakers), concerts (ringtones, music videos), tourist information access point (various information).


The proximity marketing involves technologies such as Digital Signage and Mobile Signage systems. The proximity marketing systems range from the evolved that exploit the interaction with the movement of people in a given area to the simplest ones that activate an audio message to the passage of a person, up to the most complex that through cameras, projectors and / or modern videos interact with the user with images and sounds while having fun and informing about available commercial offers (bikes used in clubs and pubs). Touch screen technology also comes into play in proximity marketing to interact at multiple levels with the user, allowing the expansion of information on products and services directly on the shelves and / or through information totems.

Digital and Mobile Signage

Digital signage is a form of advertising, also known in Italy as digital signage, digital advertising notices, videoposter or digital signage, whose contents are shown to recipients through electronic screens or video projectors specially arranged in public places. Throughout the world, traditional tools are being added to traditional communication, based on digital technologies that improve dialogue, interact with customers and contribute to sales. Digital Signage was the first to understand this need by developing contents and technologies. Digital and Mobile Signage systems are informative media based on hardware and software technologies such as LCD, LED or PLASMA panels and bluetooth transmitters, SMS that combine the most modern visual technologies with interactive information services to meet the growing need to provide more effectiveness, simplicity and clarity news and dynamic audio / video information and advertising.

The Digital and Mobile Signage systems are modular and complementary. They can interact visually, audibly through directional audio or interactively with mobile phones and the most modern smartphones (bluetooth, nfc, rfid, […]).

Bluetooth Proximity

Although from a theoretical point of view, using the bluetooth channel to send multimedia messages to mobile phones and portable devices with technology seems simple and functional, in reality it proves to be quite complex and not very profitable as regards ROI or return on investment.

The main problem lies in the specifications of the communication protocol itself, we see how a sending from a proximity marketing server and a client works:

  1. The server device searches for devices
  2. The phone answers by returning a status (ready to receive, busy, not available)
  3. The server device sends a multimedia message
  4. The text appears on the phone: "X wants to get in touch with you. Do you accept or do not accept? "
  5. If the message is accepted, once the file has been downloaded, some mobile phones display the content and then ask the user to save the file, others display the save request and save the contents without viewing it, leaving the user to search for what has been received (often laborious), others still file the file without any further warning letting the user understand if and what he has received.
  6. The server receives confirmation of receipt of the file or possible error code

Only acceptance allows you to receive the content. The main problem with the use of the bluetooth protocol is linked to the fact that the majority of mobile phones do not play and do not vibrate upon receipt of the authorization request and therefore the majority of messages end with the status: "expired".

So there are many empty messages and very poor interactions are negative (who rejects the content) and positive (who accepts the incoming message) obtained through a proximity marketing system based on the Bluetooth protocol. Not all mobile phones once confirmed (if the request, standard waiting time, set on the server devices before releasing the resource) in just 30 seconds, process the message in the same way: some save the message in a particular folder and leave user the task of looking for it.

For some devices it is not enough to activate the bluetooth and make the device visible, in the case of Motorola mobile phones the visibility is limited to thirty seconds through the function find me, for the owners of these mobile phones then receive an advertising message or information content through a Proximity Marketing apparatus is equivalent to going in person to ask a flyer to who is distributing it. The first iPhone and Blackberry did not integrate the OBEX protocol needed to exchange files. The new version of the iPhone is instead locked and allows the transfer of files only between specific applications, to avoid bypassing the Apple Store. Support for Bluetooth transmission is available on all new Blackberry phones, but must be activated by entering the Gallery and choosing the "Receive using Bluetooth" option.

Systems can be annoying and annoying, in proximity to a Proximity Marketing device it is difficult to use bluetooth to exchange a multimedia content between users. Often these devices block the cell phones contacted forcing the user to turn off and on the phone. In France, its use has been regulated by limiting its use in Indoor areas (eg shopping centers, stores, fairs, congress halls) because it is in contrast with some forms of military communication.


This is a Proximity sensor based on the new low-power Bluetooth LE technologies. IBeacon's technology is based on one or a series of wireless access points like those you can have at home for WiFi. The key difference is that an iBeacon generates a Bluetooth wireless network. Through the use of the latest generation of data transfer protocol, called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), an iBeacon access point automatically connects to an iPhone in the vicinity, as long as the latter has activated Bluetooth and installed the specification application for the service provider (such as the Apple Store app for Apple stores). The main function of iBeacon is to track the precise position of a user inside a closed room.

Apple began to hide iBeacon receivers in its Apple Retail Store in the United States. In this way a buyer can enter a store holding his iPhone, and be recognized when he is in the vicinity of an iBeacon. For example, if the user's device is recognized by the iBeacon located near the iMacs, it can provide information on computers through a push notification on the recognized iDevice. Instead, moving towards the iBeacon hidden under the accessories shelf, you can get information about the latest arrivals in terms of cases and speakers.

Privacy issues for systems based on network protocols

In some countries, privacy is an obstacle to the development of similar commercial techniques. For example, the Italian legislation on the matter (Article 4 of Legislative Decree 196/03) specifies that any information that allows an "even indirect" identification, by reference to other information, of a natural or legal person falls within the protection envisaged of the legislation itself.

In the case of Proximity Marketing systems based on the Bluetooth protocol and / or other network protocols, the MAC address is registered which is a unique identifier placed by the manufacturer of the hardware device that allows to trace the natural or legal person who owns the device that interacts with proximity marketing systems, it is also possible to trace the movements of people and even of a single device in an area through the use of several apparatuses. The MAC address represents the plate of our devices. Its identification is in contrast with the privacy law as it can be traced back indirectly to the owner of a mobile phone or other device, just track the movements and detect its device when it is unique present in the radius of action of a BT apparatus of Proximity Marketing, without any interaction even in passive mode.

With the MAC address you can go back to the manufacturer and model of a BT device, many of the Proximity Marketing programs, they already do, for example BlueMagnet! It is not difficult as the first 3 octets of the MAC, identify the manufacturer through the OUI assignments of the IEEE, while the subsequent three (MAC-48 and EUI-48) or five (EUI-64) octets identify the serial number assigned to the component from the manufacturer that must meet the criterion of uniqueness.

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