Apple vs Google: The battle of the beacons

How significant is Eddystone?

Google and Apple's technology may seem very similar at the core, and with iOS phones huge in Western countries, it's tempting to say that Eddystone won't be especially significant. Globally, the picture is different. "Given the fact that 8 out of 10 smartphones in the world are based on Android, the potential impact of this technology is immense," says Radek Tadajewski, CEO of Internet of Things device maker Oort. "Industry insiders and analysts envision a world where shopping malls and city streets are saturated with beacons, which can be setup to broadcast marketing messages to all Android smartphones in their vicinity."

Are new beacons required?

No – only a firmware update is needed for a beacon to become Eddystone-compliant. The new tech is being tested with beacons from hardware manufacturers including Kontakt.io, Bkon, bluvision, Radius Networks, Signal 360 and Estimote, all of which will soon sell Eddystone-compatible beacons off-the-shelf.

Radek Tadajewski, CEO of Oort

Radek Tadajewski, CEO of Oort

What else could Eddystone do?

Although it's being talked-up as beacon tech, Eddystone can be adopted into any Bluetooth-equipped device. That's why some think that Eddystone technology could have applications way beyond simple beacons, with Internet of Things devices now expected to use Eddystone to learn from, and adapt to, patterns of behaviour. A coffee machine will remember when its user wakes up each morning, and prepare a brew in anticipation.

"Thanks to analytics, it will also determine when we are running out of coffee and offer automated home delivery," says Tadajewski, who thinks that Eddystone at last brings manufacturers of commodity devices a communication channel with its customers. "Each light bulb, thermostat, smart socket or smart finder that uses Bluetooth can leverage this communication method and be used to gather various data such as location, temperature, humidity, etc," says Tadajewski. "Such devices will also be able to send messages with links to any Android user nearby."

Beacon manufacturers are promising support for Eddystone as well as Apple's iBeacon

Beacon manufacturers are promising support for Eddystone as well as Apple's iBeacon

Crowd-sourced data

It's also expected that Eddystone will bring retailers both crowd-sourced data on customers and highly detailed knowledge about the movements of specific shoppers around aisles. Linger next to a big ticket item such as a 50-inch TV, a smartwatch or a car and you'll likely be buzzed a discount voucher. However, there could be costs – Google will always know exactly where you are, where you've been, and where you're going next.

Either way, there's no doubting that Eddystone – and the BLE tech behind it – could be about to change the way we communicate with infrastructure, and even how shops, malls, offices and public buildings are designed. This is the physical web, and it's coming to a town near you.