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.