Google, Chrome and Open Beacons: Devices as URLs

It’s rare that you hear about proximity beacons without the name iBeacon being attached. Apple has built its own preferences and standards for how Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices be deployed to a ‘proximity’ specification, and has built a portfolio of patents around user experiences.

Yet in spite being associated with Apple, we’re still talking BLE, and often the differences between different companies is as much about philosophy as it is a technical specification or capability.

And it isn’t just Apple versus the rest of the world. Google itself can have competing views of beacons with different approaches from the Android or Chrome teams.


For Chrome, Beacons Are URLs

For some time now, we’ve been following efforts by Chrome to create a new paradigm for beacons, one based on a more open standard than Apple. The approach is best summarized in a talk planned for the ThingsExpo in Santa Clara this November.

During a talk by Scott Jensen at the event, a quarter-sized beacon will be handed out to 100 or so attendees which acts as a gateway to the Web. Check out the event in November:

“The physical Web uses Bluetooth low energy beacons to broadcast an URL wirelessly using an open protocol. Nearby devices can find all URLs in the room, rank them and let the user pick one from a list,” according to Scott.

Each device is, in effect, a gateway to a web page. This  unlocks entirely new use cases so devices can offer tiny bits of information or simple interactivity. Imagine smart posters, bus stops, dog ID collars, vending machines, or interactive kiosks, all universally accessible without installing additional apps.

The beacons are slightly larger than a quarter and serve as type of “maker kit” so anyone can prototype this new interaction style. Scott will demonstrate the beacons during his session, and hand out sample working beacons to the first 100 in attendance.

But the efforts at Chrome shouldn’t be confused with Android, say, or Google Now, wearables or (for all we know) driverless cars.

One standard – Bluetooth LE. But as many use cases as there are folks hacking away to make cool stuff happen.

Toronto Dsrupted – Join Us!

Vidya Nagarajan of Google Chrome for Enterprise is one of the presenters at the Dsrupted Conference being held in Toronto September 17th. If you’re interested in beacons, digital signage and the next generation of ‘screens’ you should join us.

Share Your Thoughts

Join our weekly e-mail list for more on iBeacons. Join the conversation on Twitter, or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Is a more open approach to beacons the future? If beacons initiated actions on “The Web” will that have a larger impact than triggering native apps? Drop us a comment below.

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