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Google’s Eddystone Is Certain To Boost Beacon Adoption

Proximity platforms like Kontakt.io expects the search giant’s entry into beacons to swiftly expand opportunities for retailers globally.

Kontakt.io's Szymon Niemczura
Kontakt.io’s Szymon Niemczura

This week’s debut of Eddystone, the name of Google’s beacon platform, was met with expectations that the new system will complement — not kill — Apple’s iBeacon technology, which has propelled the Bluetooth marketing devices into retailers’ shops over the past two years.

In terms of the underlying technology, observers don’t see much difference between Apple’s established beacon program and Google’s emerging one. The difference is in how quickly coverage will be extended to places where Apple’s iPhone penetration is behind Google’s Android, says Trevor Longino, head of Marketing & PR for proximity marketing company Kontakt.io, which was among the several other beacon platform providers, including Estimote and Sense360, ready to connect its technology to the search giant’s new format.

“Working to get the Eddystone format running on Kontakt.io hardware was a substantial investment of time and energy from our side,” said Szymon Niemczura, CEO of Kontakt.io in a statement. “We’ve had a great opportunity to prepare for the launch, and have completely native support for the Eddystone open beacon format in our Kontakt.io Cloud Platform and on our hardware stack. This means we’ve already got a complete, secure management platform in place for beacons of any kind. The new open format from Google is a great move that puts beacons more fully into the Android space, which is growing to be over 70 percent of the smartphone market.”

As Kontakt.io describes it, Eddystone differs from other beacon formats principally by having two different types of info that it broadcasts: the Eddystone-UID and the Eddystone URL. The Eddystone UID is very similar to the iBeacon profile, while the Eddystone-URL is an extension of the already existing “physical web” beacon tools. As Longino suggests, retailers should quickly explore both Apple’s and Google’s offers to determine how each can best serve their indoor marketing needs.

GeoMarketing: What should retailers who use iBeacon know about Eddystone? Should they test both?

Trevor Longino: A few things. Eddystone will bring beacon functionality in a fully native manner to Android. Especially if you’re in countries where there’s a broader Android adoption than iOS (many countries in Asia and South America, for example), this is key to improving user experience.

The other relevant datum for them is that Eddystone is part of Google’s new push into proximity and is supported with their Proximity API and Nearby API. If you’re not developing the software yourself, that may not sound interesting, but what it will do is make it much easier to create beacon-led experiences that go beyond just couponing.

This will increase what customers expect from proximity-enabled apps, and should in turn increase what retailers need to deliver. Interactive maps leading customers through the store to help customers pick up items from their grocery list, recommended special deals based on proximity and purchase history, and even more will all be expected.

Looking at what it may offer, checking out what Eddystone, the Nearby API, and the Proximity API all offer in contrast to iBeacon seems like a smart move for any tech-forward retailer.

Kontakt.io's Trevor Longino
Kontakt.io’s Trevor Longino

How will Eddystone impact the beacon landscape?

Eddystone represents a big jump forward in what you can expect from the Internet of Things. For the Internet of Things to reach the kind of saturation point that it needs to transform our lives in the manner which the Internet itself did, it needs to be ubiquitous.

By building a complete framework that expresses how you broadcast data from BLE beacons (Eddystone format), where this data resides (the Proximity API), and even how to present that data to smart devices (the Nearby API), there’s one coherent framework for the Internet of Things to operate on. This improves how developers will create content across platforms and makes it easier to create an endless stream of proximity data for our devices to interact with.

So how does this bring ubiquity? If/when Google brings Eddystone into Android M with native support, the ability to push notifications to someone’s smart phone through the Nearby API and what the user’s smart device has been doing (like searching for a given term or getting directions to a specific place) will present relevant data to users with virtually no effort on their behalf.

Will Google be able to spur adoption of beacons much like Apple did initially when it began touting iBeacon in its iOS 7 and iOS 8 updates?

By putting a native integration into the most popular mobile operating system in the world, Google will be creating a huge demand for beacons and smart device interactions, and will hugely increase the beacon installs around the world.

How will Android consumers likely react to Eddystone? What sort of use cases will inspire adoption on the consumer side?

Let me explain by example:

Imagine you’ve taken a trip. When you look up directions from an airport to a hotel after you rented a car, the Nearby API can be used to see if you’ve left the parking garage and automatically take care of most of the steps required for checking in. Upon arrival at the hotel, you’re prompted to install the hotel’s registration application to speed things up.

It also sets the room you’re going to be in to your preferred temperature, informs the hotel staff when you’ve parked in their parking lot, and can even have your phone serve as your room key.

When you check out at the end of your stay, your phone passes by a beacon as you leave the hotel parking lot, checking the exact registered location with the Proximity API, and checkout is handled automatically. All of these features are proximity interactions that are driven by a native integration with Android and beacons through Eddystone, the Proximity API, and the Nearby API.

On a general note, a lot of retailers who use beacons employ them to deliver “discounts and deals.” How does Kontakt.io view the notion of beacons “enhancing the in-store experience beyond deals?”

We have a lot of use cases about much better uses for beacons than simply coupons. Whether you’re talking about HotSpot using parking to drive customers into stores, Howler creating conversion rates 1,300 percent higher than industry standards, Rockbot driving check-ins with music, and many other uses, stores should look at doing more than dropping a coupon at the entry to a store. You can monitor queue length at checkout or customer service, present your best customers with incentives to come by your store and check out a new offer if they haven’t come in for a while, and many, many more features. The sky’s the limit, so retailers should get cracking on!

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.