In July last year, with the release of Eddystone, Google bought its Physical Web platform to Chrome for iOS. Physical Web is an open source approach to help build contextual interactions with beacons, via a web browser. Now, Google is finally bringing Physical Web to Android, with version 49, currently in Beta.

As we wrote about last year, when Google was initially testing Physical Web on iOS, Eddystone and Physical Web help provide developers with:

– How many people have passed a beacon
– Dwell time
– Number of visits
– Engagement with the contextual message (or advert)

As opposed to iBeacon, which is designed to work in-app, the Eddystone beacon format with Physical Web works by broadcasting a URL to surrounding smartphones with Chrome installed. Whilst this is still just an app that needs to be installed (Chrome doesn’t come pre-installed on all Android devices), the move to bring Physical Web to Chrome for Android is huge news for marketers and advertisers.

As one of the world’s most used mobile Internet browsers, the ability to deliver contextual URL links, marketers and advertisers can utilise Chrome’s install base to get more out of their physical campaigns.

As an example of how this could work, a holiday tube advert could broadcast the URL to the specific page to book the holiday being advertised. Another potential benefit of using Eddystone is to deliver experiences, through the mobile web, is in scenarios where users may not want to download a one-time app. For example, a museum or gallery may be able to use this to bring up information or even an audio guide through Chrome.

Physical Web and Chrome can also be used to direct users to the App Store or Google Play Store to prompt app downloads, which may be good for apps intended for repeat usage and higher levels of functionality.

With Google’s new beacon integration, upon first contact with Chrome, users receive a notification, requesting access for Physical Web functionality. At this point, the user can choose whether they want to opt in for the service.

Since Physical Web for Chrome launched on iOS last year, a large number of developers and marketers have used the platform to deliver URLs via Eddystone beacons. Most recently, it was used at Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to assist visitors with navigation and by Oracle Arena in San Francisco, to provide welcome content and sports video highlights to patrons.

Months after iOS users have been able to interact with the Physical Web, the imminent launch of Chrome (version 49) extends the technology to millions more users and will help to deliver a further boost to beacon technology. Google’s announcement will allow users to interact with smart devices around them and gather location relevant information to improve the way they interact with the spaces they are in. However, controls needs to be put in place to ensure that users are not bombarded with notifications, at risk of users turning their backs on having it enabled altogether.

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