Beacons and the Physical Web
Beacons are small Bluetooth devices that broadcast a URL web link to the local vicinity so that enabled mobile devices can pick up this physically located web link. They provide an alternative method of allowing people to visit a web page, but are only found by users who are physically located near a specific location.
Beacons are not new. We started experimenting and researching beacons in 2012. However, up until recently they have really only worked within closed app based eco-systems. So in order to make use of beacons you need to ensure users have apps, and that they have them switched on, and the beacons are in the right place, and, well, there’s just been too many hurdles to jump through.
The same problems exist with QR codes and other app “install first” technologies. The theory was great and everything worked well at prototype phase. But in reality, a very low percentage of users installed the apps or could remember where their QR code reading app shortcut was located on their mobile device.
When we first started investigating Beacons and the Physical web, our eyes started rolling, imagining every (over eager sales driven) “marketer” plastering spam across the airwaves with 100s of BUY ME NOW style messages every minute. We imagined walking down the street and realizing that our phones had crashed due to the overloading of spammy beacon driven junk arriving on our devices.
Whilst Google appear to be planning on integrating this technology onto all of their Android users’ devices, they are doing it in a very unobtrusive way. All people will get is a small, top bar notification on their phones. No annoying vibrations, alarms or beeps that would simply cause people to disable the notifications. The notifications only become useful when users decide they want to explore the local area’s “physical web”.
It will be interesting to see how this technology develops. And what happens with Apple iPhone? Will they position to oppose the Google technology, or will they work with their own iBeacon technology alongside?
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