Before we go there, it’s been two years since Apple launched iBeacon. We are still working with 1.0 of that standard. Beacon vendors have been nervous about slower momentum in the market. Google had been quietly buying Bluetooth beacons for mysterious internal projects, but there wasn’t an official Google beacon offering. Given that Android represents over 80 percent of the global smartphone market, Google’s absence was troubling. Then Google revealed their hand. They “saw” Apple and “raised the stakes” with the announcement of Eddystone.
When Donald Trump announced he was running for president, Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show was squirming in ecstasy at the prospect of a cornucopia of endless material. As a consultant on the Beacosystem, I felt the same way when I heard about Google jumping in with both feet. The difference is what Google is doing is nothing to joke about. If there were any doubt about the importance of the Bluetooth beacons, Google just ended that.
Google appear to have studied Apple’s approach closely and filled the gaps that iBeacon left open. Whether that’s a good thing depends upon your position in the market. Apple encouraged VC investments in beacon startups by putting iBeacon hooks in their OS and leaving major gaps for entrepreneurs to fill. Google appears to have identified some of the most lucrative opportunities and is tipping its hand to us as to where it sees the value by filling in those gaps themselves.
So what are some of those gaps and what’s the difference in the offerings of the two mobile OS giants? Google has gone beyond the mobile app paradigm of iBeacon and introduced three kinds of payload, one that triggers mobile apps based on proximity, the other that delivers telemetry and the last incorporates the UriBeacon open source project to send URLs to physical web browsers; a model that removes the need for developers to create apps.