Thursday, July 16, 2015

Google beacons

Apple has been using iBeacons in their stores for some time now. Beacons provide a low power signal that identifies them to smartphone applications. Basically, all they send is an identifier via low-energy Bluetooth and it’s up to the application on the smartphone to do something with this identifier. It might look up the ID and then, based on its proximity, display some location-specific information – maybe a special deal on a product that’s nearby, or perhaps offer more information on something you’re standing in front of. The beacon is usually battery powered and very cheap (~$10 or so.) Currently iBeacons only work with Apple devices.

Now, Google is getting into this business, with Eddystone. However they’re basing their beacons on open standards – if you have a Bluetooth Low-Energy smartphone, it should work with their product.

This should open up this space to some competition and provide a platform for retailers, museums, restaurants, public transit and other venues  to provide more targeted marketing information to smartphones in these places.

A differentiator for Eddystone is that it can send different types of data, beyond just an identifier - say a URL. This could be used to open a website in a browser window, similar to a QR Code, but without having to take a picture with a QR app. Another possible application might be for restaurants where a menu could be displayed when you’re waiting in line, or at your table.

Another type of data that could be transmitted is telemetry data including battery charge remaining, beacon health, etc. These could be used to manage “fleets” of beacons.

Radius Networks, a supplier or technology, can update their beacons to run the new Eddystone protocols with a simple firmware upgrade. 

Is there a potential for using a similar technology at our facilities? What business applications could you envision for this technology?

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