The ultimate Nearby Notification troubleshooting guide

Notification not showing up? Here’s a step-by-step guide explaining what to do!
The support team at Beeem – after a few hundred customer support cases – has compiled the ultimate guide to troubleshoot your Nearby Notifications. As Google keeps the filtering algorithms a secret, the novice beacon user- especially the proximity marketing professional just starting out – may come across a myriad of issues during initial setup from hardware, to the 
phone settings, to content issues. Let’s do this!

I. Phone settings
The biggest chunk of the issues stems from simple things that anyone can check on their phones. Most of our support experience tells us, this is the place to start!
1. Does the phone have access to the Internet?
Please check if the phone has mobile data ON or is connected to a Wi-Fi Network. If you have a poor data connection (Edge or 2G) it might not enable Google Nearby to receive the data back from Google servers in time so notifications may not always appear.
2. Does the phone have Bluetooth on?
Most people have Bluetooth turned on most or all of the time and Bluetooth penetration is continually growing like Wi-Fi did 5-6 years ago. Please re-check your phone settings. Note: There is nothing else required in Bluetooth realm to get Notifications: there is no pairing or anything similar!
3. Does the phone have Location (sometimes called GPS) on?
As Google deems Nearby Notifications to be using location information of the device, so a setting called Location (called GPS on some Android ROMs) has to be on even though Notifications don’t use the phone’s GPS directly.
4. Has the beacon been in the range of the phone for enough time?
In some cases, we experience that the phone has to be in the range of the beacon for quite some time before a notification shows. The most we’ve experienced is about 1 hour, but an 5-8 minute wait is the norm. Also please note that you can trigger a manual scan for beacons by turning the phone screen off and then back on! Please note that beacon scanning can take a few seconds as well so please wait a few seconds on the notification list too.
5. Have you tapped on a notification, exited Nearby and don’t get it anyomre?
Google Nearby deems a notification “used” if you tapped on it and the page is still running inside the Nearby App. If you want the notification to appear again, close the Nearby App, turn your phone screen off and back on to trigger beacon scanning and get to your notification list!

II. Beacon settings

Source: minewtech.com

Time and time again we see the most trivial solutions to a beacon “not working”. Let’s go through them all!
1. Is it turned On? Is the Battery on?
If your beacon has an indicator light make sure it’s on. If you have no such options, make sure the beacon is on by checking the battery or going directly into the beacon’s own configuration app. If you don’t know what app to look for you can use the NRF connect app for iOS and Android to do a hardware-level scan for your beacons.
2. Is the beacon configured to be broadcasting an Eddystone URL?
In some cases, the beacons are left in iBeacon mode and are not broadcasting the URL but iBeacon IDs. You can check this by going directly into the beacon’s own configuration app. If you don’t know what app to look for you can use the NRF connect app for iOS and Android to do a hardware-level scan for your beacons!

III. Beacon page content issues
This is the most overlooked part of Nearby Notifications. Everyone expects to blast a badly written website running on a poorly performing server and is let down by the results. But if you look at it from the perspective of Google: do I really want to flood the notification list with items that provide a poor UX to my phone users? The answer is clearly no and you can’t blame them for doing it. So if you’re looking to blast irrelevant messages at crowded locations you’re most likely to see poor results especially compared to your expectations. Here’s all you need to know
1. Is the URL valid (Skip if you use Beeem!)
There is only one resource that the Physical Web team at Google provides to check your beacon URLs. The Physical Web validator will test your URL shorteners and destination URLs for technical issues that prevents Google servers from successfully crawling your URLs and displaying Nearby Notifications. NOTE: this test is only for the URL itself and not the content on the URL!!
2. Is the end URL exclusively HTTPS(Skip if you use Beeem!)?
This part is covered in the last test but there is so much confusion out there that I’d like to clarify this. The technical specification for Nearby Notifications requires exclusively HTTPS content on the final URL (including any image on the page for example). So if you have any mixed content warnings for your destination URLs you’ll be filtered out, no questions asked. Please also note that even though the destination URLs have to be HTTPS exclusively, any forwarder in use can be HTTP!
3. Do you have any page content that cannot be promoted with Nearby Notifications?
Did you know that there are a ton of requirements to meet with your content? These are the most basic types of content filtered out:
Adult Content
Content that exploits children
Dangerous and Widely Illegal Content
Content that is not clear, unprofessional in appearance and that is not useful for recipients
Harassing, bullying, or threatening behavior, and do not incite others to engage in these activities
Hate Speech
– Malicious Content Distribution
– Mature Text / Profanity
– Personally Identifiable Information
– Regulated Goods & Services
– Spam
– Terrorist Content
– Violence & Shocking Content

As you can see Google filters you out in pretty much the same cases as they do with Google search. Even if you’re not intending to publish any such content it is good to know that the filtering algorithms are in place. In case your notifications still do not appear, please make a page that contains no such text content (like a template page in Beeem for example) that you can be 100% sure it’s complying.

In 2018 who are the best beacon manufacturers out there?

Recently I’ve been asked to answer the question on Quora: What is the best Bluetooth beacon manufacturer? As I was writing my answer I was beginning to realize that I got this question every day for the last 4 months from our customers since the launch of Beeem.
To elaborate on this matter further, I’d like to take this opportunity to give everyone a rundown of what our team has experienced with beacon manufacturers in commercial deployments.
Please note: We’re not affiliated with ANY beacon vendor, nor do we hold any stake in them or make any money directly or indirectly on beacon hardware sales.

Source: Radius Networks

We at Beeem have worked with most Google Eddystone certified beacon vendors (and a few that are not) and our mobile engagement platform is in use with most likely all types of Eddystone beacons, QR codes and NFC tags.
The best beacon for any job is always down to the details: project requirements, deployment and servicing issues and of course cost! Let’s get down to the details!

Things should take into consideration when selecting a beacon:

1. Battery life

Source: Estimote Blog

Thankfully as the new chipsets are getting better and better, battery life seems to be a non-issue finally. We get 14 months battery life with the EMBC01 from EM Micro and even the Radbeacon DOT lasts close to a year. The Location beacon from Estimote promises 7-year battery life (if the batteries last for that long, of course).

 

2. Casing of the beacon (in the case of outdoor deployments)
Sometimes we see people forgetting about having weather proofing beacons in mild climate areas such as Florida and around the Mediterranian in Europe. Even though you’d think you’re covered with the mild weather, the occasional storm will wipe away your fleet! Saving the $15-17 on the hardware is simply not a good idea here.

Source: Beeem

3. Mounting and deployment issues
Let’s start off with theft and vandalism. Even though a beacon is not expensive, some people are just curious and may just strip you of a beacon. This is a real issue as was the case for the Google-funded pilot in Manchester, UK. You have to keep in mind that you don’t only use the cost of the beacon hardware but the cost of the deployment as well. Also, access to dropped ceiling is a real must in a lot of indoor deployments.

4. Direct and indirect costs
Make sure customs issues are resolved well in advance and you know what part of the world the beacons are coming from! This is an issue with the Chinese vendors mostly but has been a showstopper for transatlantic deals too. Also, don’t forget about shipping costs!

Source: Solea DP

5. Pre-configuration, labeling options and cost of these services
For pre-configuration we’ve seen anything from $0 to $5 / beacon. This gets bigger and bigger as your deployment size is increasing. Doing a few beacons might not seem like much but once you’re into the dozens you’ll just spend hours and days with pre-configuring and labeling that might otherwise have been prevented. Beeem’s zero-configuration concept comes in really handy here: you get the beacons cloud-connected to your account so all the work will be done in the cloud!

6. Shipping and customs time
A rarely considered aspect of beacon deployments. We’ve seen dozens of projects where neglecting this aspect caused issues from delays to projects going down! Calculating with the necessary buffers for customs duties is always an issue with large orders. For a single beacon, you might be under the threshold of your country but you can never be sure.

Types of beacons for commercial deployments (and where you can go wrong with them):

A. Coin cell battery powered
The holy grail of beacons. Most of the beacons you know come with coin cell batteries. Did you know that batteries for some very high-profile beacons are very hard to get in most EU countries? Please check if you’ll have the ability to get new batteries at a reasonable cost!

Source: beaconzone.co.uk

B. AA or AAA battery powered
Did you know that the cost of your beacon hardware might double when you have to get or replace a battery? With some beacons, you’ll have the ability to recharge batteries this way to save some cost.

C. USB powered or pluggable
The smallest and least expensive beacons (at least in bulk) are these little things. A lot of vendors have them, but there are a few things to note with them in deployment: on the positive side, most POS terminals or countertop PCs have a USB slot to work with. But if you need to get a USB adapter, make sure your price is right!

D. Solar powered
A few vendors offer this option. Please note, that you should be all right under ambient lighting as well with these devices! Too good to be true? Probably, because the price point for these devices is way too high to justify the typical large-scale deployments.

Source: minewtech.com

E. Tags
A handful of manufacturers offer beacon products that are geared toward mobility. These tags come with significant trade-offs in flexibility and battery life but can be very convenient to use! Furthermore, in 2019 an Israeli-American startup called Wiliot will be launching a passive Bluetooth beacon product!

 

Finally, our top choices for commercial deployments based on our own and the experience of our customers (in a random order):
Radius Networks
EM Microelectronic
Minew
BlueUp
Kontakt.io
Estimote
SENSORO
Accent Systems

Honorable mentions go out to iBlio, they are not certified/featured by Google but produce excellent hardware and to Wiliot for working on most likely the biggest leap in beacon tech!