Google comes with an open platform for Bluetooth beacons. These devices can be used for various purposes, such as giving location-specific information. The company also comes with open specifications for beacons as a direct competitor for the iBeacon: Eddystone.
What is a Bluetooth beacon?
Bluetooth beacons are devices, literally beacons, that radiate a Bluetooth signal. The best-known Bluetooth beacons are those of Apple, named iBeacon. The beacons constantly broadcast location-specific information. For example, a Bluetooth beacon at a bus stop can broadcast its precise location and bus line data. That signal is picked up on your smartphone, after which the travel planner app, for example, can process it and give you better-localized travel advice. The beacons use the BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) technology to ensure that they consume little power.
Bluetooth beacons have already been negative in the news, because they can also be used to track customers in stores, for example. Google indicates that developers must abide by the applicable privacy laws if they want to fully use the new beacon platform.
What is Eddystone?
Google has called its open standard Eddystone. Beacons that meet this standard offer at least three options. The first is support for Google’s new Proximity Beacon service. This supports the well-known function of beacons, giving location-specific information. Proximity Beacon also has support for iBeacons and AltBeacons. With Proximity Beacon, Google supports the traditional method of location determination with Bluetooth beacons, namely by specifying location coordinates. A beacon can also, for example, pass on information about the floor on which it is located. Google also supports a new way of passing on information through the recently announced Nearby function. With this, for example, information can be displayed directly in a museum about a certain work of art.
The second function of Eddystone is the support for what Google calls ‘Ephemeral Identifiers’ (EID). This makes it possible, for example, to quickly find your luggage at the airport. These EIDs, which are broadcast by Eddystone beacons, can only be decrypted by authorized apps. The third option for Eddystone is sending URLs. This function is used for example by the ‘physical web’ of Google. This allows the beacons to broadcast a web link.
Soon Google will also offer support for Eddystone and the Proximity Beacon platform in Google Now. The beacons are already being used on public transport in Poland to be able to provide location-specific information in Google Maps and will soon also extend this information to Google Now. Google wants to give priority to relevant maps based on the data from the beacons. For example, you will see the menu of a restaurant that you are standing in front of.
Keep an eye on beacons
Google also offers a way to keep an eye on Eddystone beacons. The beacons are constantly monitored with a special web tool. For example, on the basis of the data that the Eddystone’s transmit, it is determined how full the battery is, how much data the beacon has transmitted, how long the beacon is active and how hot the device is.
The interesting thing is that Google determines the number of other things based on historical data. For example, Google calculates the expected remaining battery life and determines when a beacon is removed or when the beacon is detected unusually low. This allows owners of the Eddystones to maximize the deployment of the devices.
Various manufacturers are already starting to sell Eddystone beacons and developers can start using it immediately.