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Google's Eddystone serves up location-based info via Bluetooth beacons

Billy Steele
July 14, 2015
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Using low-energy Bluetooth beacons to serve up location-based info to customers isn't a new development. We've seen more than a few implementations of Apple's iBeacon tech. Google has a new project that employs a similar setup, and it's called Eddystone. How does it differ from Apple's Bluetooth initiative? The effort is a "new and open format" that "anyone" can implement. In addition to working alongside a mobile app to beam info to your phone or tablet when you're in a specified location, Eddystone can also broadcast a URL when an app isn't an option. Rather than missing out, a company can choose to send a web link instead. And it works with both Android and iOS devices, too. There are also two location options, meaning developers can choose one of two APIs that will either find and ping a nearby beacon (like in a museum) or send info when you visit a specific location (e.g., latitude/longitude).

Google's already using the beacons to bolster its own apps and services. The company leverages the platform for real-time transit info in Portland, Oregon, and it plans to employ the tech to prioritize Google Now cards based on your location as well. Of course, privacy is a concern when you're letting a company access your whereabouts, and Eddystone uses Ephemeral Identifiers (EIDs) for security. The EIDs can only be decoded by "authorized clients," so activities like tracking luggage can be done securely. Google isn't offering too much info on how the whole system is locked down just yet, so we'll keep an eye out for additional details as it gets more use.

For companies with existing Bluetooth beacons, Google says Eddystone can be installed with a firmware update. This means that they won't have to invest more money to replace a current setup. What's more, Google's tech keeps tabs on a fleet of the beacons, pointing out when one isn't working properly and other issues that may arise. This is particularly important in places like sports stadiums, where a team will likely blanket the facility with the Bluetooth devices for all spectators. Eddystone is available for interested parties now, and we're curious to see how companies choose to leverage it.

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