Physical Web

It’s impossible to talk about Eddystone and not mention Physical Web. It’s an idea that you should be able to just walk up to a smart object or place, and be able to immediately interact with it or more learn about it via a web page—without the need for any app.

Most commonly, this is achieved by having a BLE beacon broadcast an Eddystone-URL packet, with a URL encoded directly in it. Apps, devices, and services can then detect the Eddystone-URL packet, and direct the user to the appropriate web page.

Info: There are other ways to broadcast URLs in the vicinity that the Physical Web project has experimented with: mDNS, Wi-Fi Direct, SSDP.

There’s nothing in the Physical Web’s mission statement that would restrict it to BLE and Eddystone-URL. This simply turned out to be the most practical/popular way to broadcast a URL to nearby devices.

Apps and services with Physical Web support

Everyone is free to build their own Physical Web service/browser. Here are the most popular implementations.

Nearby Notifications

The largest adopter of the Physical Web is Google itself with its Nearby Notifications. To use Nearby Notifications to direct people to a web page, you can either:

  1. configure a beacon to broadcast an Eddystone-URL packet, or
  2. register your beacon in Google’s beacon cloud, and assign a URL to that beacon

Tip: If you have a beacon broadcasting Eddystone-UID or EID packets that’s already deployed somewhere, you could use method #2 to add a URL notification to it without having to change its configuration.

On the receiving end, you need an Android devices with Google Play Services. Both Bluetooth and Location must be on. You can access Nearby settings at Settings => Google => Nearby.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Nearby Notifications require the website to meet certain requirements, e.g., HTTPS-only, robots allowed, etc.
  • Nearby only scans for beacons when the user wakes up the screen. As a result, the notification might not appear until the user interacts with their Android smartphone.
  • If your notification isn’t performing well (users rarely tap on it, or dismiss it, which can be interpreted as the notification being not that useful), Nearby Notifications might stop delivering it to the users.

Important: Google mentioned on multiple occasions that ads and coupons are among the most dismissed notifications, meaning that Nearby Notifications isn’t a good fit for this type of content.

Google Chrome

Physical Web’s first largest adopter was actually Google Chrome on iOS and Android. Since then, Google transitioned most of its implementation to Nearby Notifications. You can read more about it in the Update on Physical Web features in Chrome post on the physical-web-discuss group.

Other mobile web browsers

Some other implementations include: