24 Jan Physical Web and Eddystone Network Highlight New Chapter for Beacons
Google is bringing new capabilities to the beacon ecosystem through the Physical Web and their growing network of certified Eddystone Location Service Providers. Can the Physical Web make proximity more active by being passive?
Not every passer-by wants to receive push notifications about every promotion. Whilst Apple’s iBeacon and Google’s Eddystone share most capabilities, Google has gone one step further using URLs otherwise known as ‘The Physical Web’ and that will change the way the world views proximity technology. The Physical Web is not about uprooting beacons as they currently exist but giving them the extra capacity to fight some of their biggest obstacles.
The Physical Web’s major advantage is it doesn’t require integration with individual apps. For example, instead of requiring users to download an app for their favorite store, their local cafe, their children’s school, and everything in between, the Physical Web steps in and connects a smart device to all existing content using the power of the web. As long as that content is being broadcast as a specific URL format via Eddystone beacons, a smartphone will be able to pick it up, – simple as that. However, that does not mean every single marketing campaign will be able to push messages directly to users. Users will merely have the option to interact with them when they choose – it’s called interaction on demand.
For example, a customer is walking through a cinema, and they pass a poster for an upcoming film. They are intrigued and unlock their phone to find out more. Through the Physical Web, a beacon located in that cinema has already triggered information about the film, opening dates, interviews, and clips – and it is now available on that user’s phone without them having to search for it. There are no beeps or notifications. The user chooses to interact with the information when they want to and when it’s relevant. Instead of pushing content, the Physical Web is built around being passive and available when the user chooses to reach out.
The result is possibly a much more palatable push notification system, which could have a huge effect on the population’s fears of drowning in marketing messages. While this gives a huge push to benefits of Eddystone, the Physical Web does not spell the end for iBeacon or app-based beacon campaigns. Rather, this is the start of two very different capabilities that can even be mixed together for maximum efficiency.
Proxama’s MyStop Experience
Google is building up their own network of Location Service providers, who offer location software and services verified by Google engineers that are compatible with the Google beacon platform. This includes the sourcing of Eddystone-enabled beacons and integrations of the provider’s tools with the Google beacon platform. Proxama is one of the first Google certified LSPs and they successfully deployed the world’s first consumer-focused Physical Web campaign in London across their bus network in partnership with Exterion Media.
Proxama’s My Stop uses the Physical Web to deliver transit information to passengers on London buses. They began by installing Eddystone beacons on London buses which helped direct passengers to an online service that could update them on the exact bus route they were travelling on, such as arrival times, and even how close they are to their desired stop. Passengers could select the location they intended to get off at, and MyStop would act like an app and alert them via a notification when they were arriving at their destination.. That means never missing your stop.
Whilst MyStop has been a hit and is no doubt leading to further campaigns, the importance of the Physical Web extends far beyond not missing your bus stop. In fact, Proxama has already used the Physical Web to deliver relevant notifications as part of campaigns for the recent film The BFG as well as flight comparison search engine SkyScanner. These campaigns add a layer of possibility for consumers. Branded content can be engaged with–or silenced–as needed.
Building Within the Physical Web
Perhaps most interestingly, setting up a Physical Web-based campaign is not entirely dissimilar from an ordinary beacon project. It is actually in many ways easier. Leveraging the Physical Web removes the need to worry about beacon scanning SDKs. Proxama’s Louise Thompson explains:
“Our beacon network already supports broadcasting URLs, and many other formats, but with the Physical Web there is no need for an SDK as it’s web, not app. We have services that allow a company to rapidly launch their campaigns via our network. There is no dev process needed there, we can do it all.”
This is one of the final steps, bridging the great possibilities of cutting edge technologies with capabilities that allow ordinary businesses to get on board (without blowing their budget). As more and more top retailers and businesses roll out beacon programs, the Physical Web offers the chance to use proximity technology without investing in all the tiny bits-and-pieces.
Are Apps Dead?
The Physical Web does not, for now, mark the end of the app. Many campaigns will choose to use the Physical Web to push their own full-fledged app or to use their web experience as a complimentary service to their in-app beacon triggered experiences. There are many opportunities with the Physical Web, but the goal is not the death of the app.
The collection of data through the Physical Web differs from that of a native app. As the program is passive rather than active, data is only collected when a user lands on a webpage. Whatever they do outside of that—be it lingering or moving between physical spaces—will go unnoticed. That means companies looking specifically into things such as footfall data will also need to invest in an app or other means to see the full breadth of movement.
Three Steps to Physical Web Success
Proxama gave us some insider tips for creating a great Physical Web-based project. Being one of the first to deploy, text, and learn from one of these campaigns has given them valuable insight that can help you get going faster.
Learn the basics. The Physical Web is simple and fast to set up but there are some requirements. You’ll need a meta title, meta description, favicon, robots.txt, and a secure URL. Make sure you’ve understood and implemented these before wondering why your URL isn’t showing up. verify.physical-web.org is an incredibly useful tool for checking that these are set up correctly.
Create brilliant content. Physical Web URLs need to load instantly, render well across devices and most importantly be interesting and relevant to the location! Physical Web users are very valuable. They are within range of a beacon at a time of high dwell and have chosen to open your URL specifically amongst a list of competing ones. Reward them with a remarkable user experience and they will tell their friends and love your brand. Deter them with irrelevant content and they will avoid your links.
Get involved. The Physical Web has incredible potential, but is still very young. Play around with it, check out existing campaigns, read up on the technology, tell your friends, think of new use cases, broadcast your own URL’s, follow twitter accounts (@proxama, @ThePhysicalWeb), give feedback and always share your experiences.
Want to add proximity to your next project? Get Your Own Beacons and get planning!