Beacons reach out with Chrome for Android support
The mainstream connected home remains a distant dream, says Gartner

Beacons reach out with Chrome for Android support

Google’s Chrome browser on Android devices now supports beacons.

Google has announced that support for beacons will be added to Chrome for Android. In doing so, it is helping to facilitate the connection of what it calls the ‘Physical Web’ to users of Chrome. In laypersons’ language that means Chrome will be able to provide the interface between people and beacons.

Part of the benefit for end users is that they will no longer have to find individual brand related apps in order to receive and act on information from beacons. And because Chrome functions across multiple mobile platforms, information from a single beacon can be received and acted on by a large number of users.

When users pass by a beacon for the first time, they’ll receive a notification allowing them to enable the Physical Web. On future encounters with beacons, users can quickly see a list of nearby URLs by tapping on a non-vibrating notification waiting for them. Notifications might include a web URL that can take users to the service(s) offered via the beacon.

The system is currently in beta, and Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist, and Max Senges from Google Research have announced the Internet of Things (IoT) Technology Research Award Pilot for university researchers.

This covers a number of areas including the Physical Web and Google’s own open-source beacon format Eddystone. Proposals are invited in which Google IoT technologies are used to (1) explore interesting use cases and innovative user interfaces, (2) address technical challenges as well as interoperability between devices and applications, or (3) experiment with new approaches to privacy, safety and security.

The potential for beacons goes far wider than just retail opportunities.  To give just two examples: this week, a German clothing retailer Adler Modemarkte revealed that it is using an RFID robot to check inventory in store, while late last year Wayfindr launched on the London Underground. The product of the Royal London Society for Blind People’s (RLSB’s) youth forum and digital product studio, this uses beacon technology to guide vision impaired people through and around urban environments.

Beacons set for prime-time

Dr Windsor Holden at Juniper Research told Internet of Business that Google’s move could help level the playing field in terms of company’s use of beacons.

“Where beacons have been deployed they’ve typically seen strong engagement and a good ROI, so they certainly offer strong benefits to retailers.  The lack of a uniform standard has certainly been a constraint: Google’s Eddystone has previously attained only modest adoption, and support for Chrome could be a key development here.”

Google has been on a big push of late with beacons, with the firm’s beacon project manager, Peter Lewis, detailing the beacons news, its trials with Eddystone and the Physical Web at the Internet of Retail last week.