Google’s iBeacon competitor ‘Eddystone’ expands capability of Bluetooth beacons

Thanks to Google Inc.’s new Eddystone protocol for Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) beacons, retailers may soon no longer need smartphone users to have an app installed before sending them a proximity-based message.

Google announced a new raft of features, tools, and an open format for BLE beacons July 14. Eddystone is not only available on GitHub for developers to sink their teeth into, but it offers integration through already available APIs with both Android and iOS apps. What’s more, Google has plans to embed interaction with the protocol directly into Google Play, which would allow Android devices to potentially communicate with a beacon using a web browser.

Apple introduced its iBeacon protocol in June 2013 and quietly integrated it into iOS 7. Companies that have made a business of installing BLE beacons and setting them up to deliver messages have relied on that protocol ever since. At the heart of the iBeacon protocol is the ability to send a universal unique identifier (UUID) from a beacon to a smartphone.

To make sense of that UUID, the smartphone user requires the right app that can make an association with it. Other than information about how close the device is to the beacon based on signal strength, that’s the only point of information exchanged with iBeacon.

Eddystone will change that, expanding the types of information that can be sent by beacons, including simply sending a URL directly to a device, says John Coombs, CEO of Toronto-based Rover Labs.

“It was a big deal in 2013 when Apple created the iBeacon protocol,” he says. “It’s a really big deal when Google jumps on board as well … it shows the importance of what beacons can be and how important proximity is going to be to mobile.”

Coombs says Rover is making adjustments to its platforms to accept the two additional packets found in Eddystone’s protocol. Google has already partnered with several beacon makers such as Bluvision, Estimote, Kontakt.io, Radius Networks, and Signal360 to support Eddystone in their devices.

Google explains its Eddystone protocol to developers in this video.

In addition to sending a URL and a UUID, Eddystone can also transmit an ephemeral identifier (EID). This feature only allows devices that are approved to read the EID to see the information on a beacon and the exact location of it.

“There could be a lot of potential B2B applications here,” Coombs says. “Locks for doors, or information only available to your sales staff – what’s the maximum discount you can offer on a product?”

Google says in a blog post that it wants to integrate Bluetooth beacons into its other solutions.

“Google Now will also be able to use this contextual information to help prioritize the most relevant cards, like showing you menu items when you’re inside a restaurant,” the company says. “We also want to make the beacons useful even when a mobile app is not available.”

Google declined a request for an interview about Eddystone from ITBusiness.ca.

 

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jacksonhttp://www.itbusiness.ca
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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