Google introduced a number of new products around Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons in an effort to challenge Apple’s iBeacon ecosystem.
It’s no secret that Google has long been interested in Bluetooth beacons. About a year ago, we first heard about Google’s Nearby project, for example, which is also launching as an API. While Nearby also uses other signals (WiFi, audio, etc.), BLE beacons are clearly at the center of Google’s efforts.
The first of Google’s new beacon products is the Eddystone format. This new format, which the company is releasing under the Apache 2.0 open source license on Github, is meant to give developers a more robust and extensible way for working with beacons, as Google product manager Matthew Kulick told.
The new format is completely platform agnostic (as long as the device supports BLE, it will support Eddystone) and any existing beacon can be made Eddystone-compatible with a firmware update.
On the API side, Google is launching two new APIs today for developers who want to use beacons for their apps. The Nearby API for Android and iOS now makes it easier for apps to find and communicate with devices and beacons that are — well — nearby. That may be an art exhibit or a bus stop (Google already worked with the transport authorities in Portland, OR to implement this).
The Proximity Beacon API then takes this a step further and helps developers associate a location and related data with beacons. That data is stored on Google’s servers.