A few days ago Jeanette Cajide, VP of Corporate Development for Dialexa wrote a post on the Huffington Post on beacons. The post is a great summary of the shortcomings of the iBeacon area: the adoption rate of beacons has been slow and users have not gotten a single, seamless point of entry on their UI for proximity-based content and interaction.
No app downloads The physical web will remove the no. 1 obstacle between mobile users and the places they visit: the dreaded app download. With browsers (like Chrome on iOSsoon available on Android too and Opera) and mobile Operating Systems (like Chrome OS and Firefox OS) getting physical-web enabled rapidly soon over a billion devices on the planet will have a single point of entry for proximity-based content and interaction: the lockscreen.
No direct messaging The physical web will do away with the privacy concerns of smartphone users: Google has implemented several measures to make sure no contact is necessary during service discovery.
As with web search, Google handles the storing and sorting of information but without any direct control over the content of the URLs the service completely open and free. The formal nature of the web will make sure that no nagging mobile messaging will be without opt-ins. The clear standardized vision of the W3C on the matter is already implemented by Google in Chrome 42 on Android.
A clear path on the UI for proximity-based content and interaction We will get rid of looking for and downloading QR code reader apps, pointing cameras at codes that do not seem to work, we will get rid of service discovery issues in app-based beacon-enabled content and interaction. The browser will serve as the principal source of content and interaction around us and will serve the relevant places and things at our convenience at a single point of entry: the lock screen.
With a host of exciting news in recent weeks the future of proximity-based interaction on mobile looks ever more promising. Innovation in the domain is stepping up with several players producing wonderful results from the likes of the Wi-Fi Alliance, Opera Software, the Mozilla Foundation and Google.
In this post, we will take a look at the 4 major areas of innovation that will shape proximity-based content and interaction on mobile:
Proximity-based content and interaction from Bluetooth to WiFi
With the Wi-Fi Alliance introducing the specification of Wi-Fi Aware the most obvious networking base technologies already actively support proximity-based mobile interaction. In the near future there will be a host of possibilities to advertise proximity-based content and interaction to nearby mobile devices: with the Bluetooth stack inching towards massive acceptance, the rival Wi-Fi stack is catching up. Patrick Keane’s recent tutorial on how to set up a simple mDNS physical web advertiser is a great example of what’s to come: beacons will play a role whenever infrastructure is not set for a long term for example at events. In other industries like retail Wi-Fi-based technologies will compete beside Bluetooth beacons for the role of infrastructure for the physical web.
Engage with Mac and Windows without beacons
The most attention in proximity-based mobile technologies was stolen by beacons: the iBeacon vs. Eddystone war is a great example of how the big tech companies can steal the attention of the media with a standards war.
But there is a large untapped set of beacons available right now everywhere in the world: users of Mac OS X and Windows 10.0 can simulate beacons with the Bluetooth radios of their computers. With Mac OS X hovering around a 5% global market share and the affected version of Windows holding a close to 7% according to PC World, 1 in 4 computers in the world is capable of proximity-based content and interaction right now. That is a whopping 240 000 000 potential software-based beacons compared to a few million beacons currently in use.
The first attemt at simulating physical web beacons was made available by Mikael Jergefelt on Github. A big thank you is well deserved for all contributors! The project is available at the following link.
Another noteworthy project on the subject is Chrome OS. François Beaufort’s recent post points out that Chrome OS devices are now capable of advertising as an Eddystone beacon that will play a major role in digital signage among other areas.
Go app-less in any mobile browser with the physical web One of the most exciting pieces of news in recent weeks has been the post of Opera Software’s Bruce Lawson on Opera Labs’s latest Android release with their implementation of the physical web. The early development release is a very pleasant surprise. The interface is well thought out, the recognised eddystone beacons are well complemented with georeferenced wikipedia and other complementary content that creates a great UX. We truly see the future in this release and hope other browser developers are soon recognizing the importance of implementing the physical web in their strategies to provide proximtiy-based content and interaction on mobile.
Among the innovators from Norway, the folks at Firefox OS team have already implemented the physical web and are hard at work at WebBluetooth. Jan Jongboom’s post on the matter is a great read and a wonderful look at the future of mobile computing in general.
Mobile notifications from your favourite website With the release of Chrome 42 on Android mobile notifications can be pushed to a Chrome user even when the browser is not running. With app usage concentrating to just a few apps Google’s vision is to empower the web with a set of features that will make it much more easy and convenient to use websites on mobile just like any app. This vision of the mobile web is further expanded with the physical web: adding a layer of physical context of the places and events around us will open up new advances in mobile computing.
As the global mobile phone and tablet penetration is widening the opportunities for expanding brick & mortar retail become a reality on a massive scale: digital signage will move beyond pre-installed displays and move onto the screens of the consumers. In this post, we will take a look at the 3 new dimensions of a store that every store design professional will have to go for in 2016.
Content “Content is King” – the famous quote from Bill Gates. Soon this will be true for retail. Having on-the-spot mobile content in stores will become a part of the routine for store design. From simple information sheets to animation, videos or even information on available stocks of a particular product inside the store will be the norm. To do this in a convenient and cost efficient fashion, the physical web will offer the necessary toolset for retailers: easy content management and seamless integration will be the key drivers over an App-based approach. Your store will act like your webshop and your customers will browse with their feet.
Engagement Your customers love their smartphones but they will not engage with you with their devices unless you provide real value: this will most simply be done with omnichannel loyalty programs: coupons and loyalty cards are the norm these days in most every form and it is a shame the world is still tied to plastic and paper. This can be done with apps but development is painful and expensive. It took Starbucks 10 months to roll out in the US and is only partially rolled out in the UK. This app-based approach will only work with the most loyal, fan-like customer-base and only with brands that have significant following. For the other 90 percent of companies the much more convenient and cost effective physical web approach will provide the adequate entry point for engagement. You will be able to get rid of your expensive paper and plastic-based loyalty programs and coupons and drive revenue with e-commerce grade targeting.
The most important piece of the puzzle is completing the transactions. Payment will be much less expensive and much more data-rich through the devices of the customers. Compared to traditional POS solutions card processing fees range way lower in on-line payment processing due not requiring any devices or network access for the card readers. But the biggest added value will be the data: more data about the customers will ultimately allow for better customer service. Integrating mobile payment in retail apps will be expensive though. There is a much more cost effective method: the physical web will enable the key integration to web payment processing services that will make processing retail transactions a breeze. On the physical web your customers will pay just like they do on a webshop.
With over 2.5 billion smartphones new dimensions of retail are emerging. Having the targeting precision and data-rich decision-making of e-commerce with the colorful nature of brick & mortar retail will set new possibilities for retailers and brands alike.