Google today introduced Eddystone, its new Bluetooth Low Energy beacon format. Beacons can be used to provide contextual information to smart devices, like alerting your phone to present your bus ticket when you’re near a stop.
With Eddystone, Google hopes to provide an open and extensible beacon format to improve the technology. It supports several different use cases and is cross-platform, allowing it to work with Android, iOS, or any other platform that supports Bluetooth Low Energy beacons.
Google’s Eddystone offers two new APIs to ensure that it can offer better context and more precise location to nearby devices. The first is a Nearby API for Android and iOS, which makes it easier for apps to find and talk to nearby beacons. There’s also a Proximity Beacon API that allows developers to associate a place’s semantic info and other data in the cloud.
Google also touts Eddystone’s benefit for non-developers. For manufacturers of Bluetooth beacons, it means a single piece of hardware for multiple platforms. For businesses, Eddystone means that it’s easy to secure and manage a whole bunch of beacons. And for Google’s own products, it means better user experiences. For example, Google Now will soon be able to use beacons and contextual information to prioritize relevant cards, like showing a restaurant’s menu when you’re actually there.
Google today also introduced a big Nearby feature that uses Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and inaudible sound to determine your proximity to others. It then uses Nearby Messages to talk to other devices. Using Nearby Messages — which supports iOS and Android — you can do things like compare podcasts with nearby users in Pocketcasts or share Trello boards with people around you. The Nearby Messages API is available to all developers on iOS and Android with the release of Google Play services 7.8, and it doesn’t require you to have a Google Account to use.