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.
In this post, We will elaborate on how Google’s concept of the physical web will move beyond the shortcomings of the iBeacon-area of proximity-based apps:
- 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 iOS soon 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.
- Users opt-in with taping at content they choose
The alarming opt-out rates discussed in Jeanette’s post are a clear sign that users do not want their smartphones to turn to a proximity-enabled ad-machines.
This will be best served by Eddystone beacons and Google’s back end services acting as a proxy between the advertised URLs and the smartphone users. Browsers do not talk to the web servers directly during discovery: only after taping at a particular URL will the browser be launched and direct communication between the user’s phone and the website begin.
- 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.
- No beacons!
The most promising feature of the physical web is not requiring installed, dedicated hardware: The Wi-Fi Alliance is already pushing Wi-Fi Aware to rival Bluetooth Smart and both Mac OS X and Windows 10 have universal Bluetooth libraries that enable 240 000 000 PCs in the world to power the physical web and act as Bluetooth beacons today.
With these advances, app-less proximity-based content and interaction will soon be available to practically anyone regardless of mobile platform, physical location and market size.