The Physical Web

How the Physical Web works

You might know a few details about the beacon technology and how you can use them to create location based services. The Physical Web is a beacon technology as well: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons are used to broadcast content over bluetooth to the devices nearby. As we know for the “usual” Beacon technology, a specific app is needed to display all the information provided by the little Bluetooth sensors. But no such thing with the Physical Web!

Only a beacon that supports the Google Eddystone protocol and a browser like Google Chrome or Nearby Notifications installed on the smartphone will be needed. This is only possible as the Google Eddystone protocol is able to broadcast URLs instead of the typical Beacon-IDs. In this case your service will display a list with all the URLs near you and you might choose the page that is most useful to you. This way the Physical Web enables our mobile devices to interact with any object or even with places – without installing an according app first!

For you as a customer this means that you won’t have to install another app on your smartphone but you will have access to the provided information via your browser. On the other hand as a company you don’t have to develop a new app but you can profit from wide-ranging, already existing browser apps. This provides endless opportunities and broadens the possibilities and chances of location based services.

Physical Web use cases

Of course there are already some really interesting use cases around the globe that we want to show you in the following:

  1. Vending Machines

    As we already reported, Square Metrics took it upon themselves to bring vending machines out of their anonymity and to transfer them into digital touch points for the customers of the vending machines operators. This way the operators and owners of vending machines, but also the brands receive valuable data on the customer behavior when they are at the machine. Such as frequency of usage, rush hours etc. The customers get valuable information and can give feedback for the listed products right away. The search for specific and context related information is simplified and made faster.


  2. Parking Meter

    As another example Google shows how the payment processes at parking lots could be arranged easier: an internet-connected parking meter with an integrated beacon could broadcast an URL that points to a webpage of the current meter. This way the user can add additional time to this parking meter via his or her smartphone.

    Credits: Matthew Sibigtroth

  3. Pets

    Imagine your pet is lost. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the people that are near your dog would know its name and your address to bring it home? To make this happen Google explains that it could be possible to integrate an Eddystone Beacon into a dog collar. This way you can create a dynamic Physical Web which could broadcast an URL that provides information about the dog and it’s owner. Of course you don’t want to spread all the private information whenever your dog is in public. So you as the owner might update the broadcasted webpage with all the information needed when your dog is lost. The people that meet your dog during this time get to know that it is lost and may take action.

    Of course a movable (Physical Web) beacon isn’t only an interesting use case for lost pets but for every other case you could imagine!

    Credits: Matthew Sibigtroth

If you have some great ideas to realize with Physical Web beacons get in contact with us!

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