Google released Eddystone – an open source format for Bluetooth LE beacons that will compete with Apple’s iBeacon standard. Beacons are small devices that transmit locally relevant information to nearby mobile devices like sending product information or discount offers to customers shopping in a retail store.
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In contrast to Apple’s iBeacon, Google’s Eddystone can work with both Android and iOS devices, which will likely make it more attractive to developers than iBeacon. Eddystone can also support multiple data payloads at once, so each beacon can deliver multiple messages to devices. Other beacon formats like iBeacon can only support a single data payload per device.
Google is offering the Eddystone for free download on GitHub. It’s leaving the beacon hardware and software for device management up to developers and partners. But Google is using beacons equipped Eddystone with some of its own software, such as a pilot program it ran earlier this year in Portland using beacons to send real time transit schedules to residents’ Google Maps apps.
Google will also roll out a cloud API called the “Proximity Beacon API” that developers can use to register beacons and store data associated with them in Google’s cloud. Support for Eddystone will also be folded into Google’s Nearby API, creating a shortcut for enabling mobile devices to recognise nearby beacons running Eddystone and receive data from them. So even though the Eddystone format is open source, Google is using these APIs to tie the beacons back to its proprietary systems.
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