Google challenges iBeacon with open format Eddystone

Eddystone is capable of supporting Android, iOS or any platform that supports BLE beacons. It's also available on GitHub under the Apache v2.0 license.

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Google is putting its own spin on beacon technology, releasing the open-source, cross-platform beacon format Eddystone.

The format is a direct challenge to Apple's two-year-old iBeacon specification, which has since become a cornerstone in a bevy of beacon endeavors.

Beacons are used by a range of businesses for mobile marketing efforts. The small, low cost pieces of hardware function like a transmitter, exchanging data with apps on a phone to find a user's location. If a consumer has an app enabled, a business can their in-store beacon to trigger various types of marketing campaigns once a device is in proximity.

But with Eddystone, Google is looking to turn one of iBeacon's primary inhibitors into a key differentiator. Generally speaking, iBeacon is a proprietary standard that only works with other Apple devices. Therefore, businesses using a device built on iBeacon can only communicate with half of the smartphone-toting population.

By contrast, Eddystone is capable of supporting Android, iOS or any platform that supports BLE beacons. Support for Eddystone is built into Google Play Services' Nearby API on Android, and is also available on GitHub under the Apache v2.0 license.

Another interesting aspect about Eddystone is that it can send URLs that are capable of working with just a web browser. The use of URLs replaces the Universally Unique Identifier (UUID) that typically is required for communication to take place between beacons and mobile devices.

By swapping out UUIDs for URLs, businesses can reach consumers who may not want to keep store-branded apps installed on their phone at all times. iBeacons only use UUIDs.

Looking at the bigger picture, Eddystone is yet another drop in Google's rapidly filling bucket of IoT endeavors. Plus, it's still in the very early stages of infancy, so it will be interesting to see how it catches on with OEMs. A lot more detail about Eddystone can be found on Google's developers blog.