If you’ve been keeping up with the various updates on Physical Web, Nearby, Eddystone, and so on you’ve probably wondered what the difference is between them all; especially since Physical Web and Nearby seem to do the same thing. We did too so we did some investigation but first let’s cover the fundamentals.
Eddystone is a bluetooth beacon protocol originally developed by Google. Eddystone supports different “frame formats” which is a type of beacon advertisement. One of those frame formats is Eddystone-URL and allows broadcasting of URLs. The popular beacon format prior to Eddystone was only an ID format that apps had to specifically listen for their beacons.
The physical web is basically the method that Eddystone beacons broadcast the URL beacon type and handling it. Devices can listen for those bluetooth announcements and present them to the user, commonly as a notification, which the notification process is called “surfacing”. Originally the Chrome mobile app was and is still capable of listening and handling these beacons.
Google Nearby is a set of APIs that allow for device to device interaction without needing to be on the same network. The goal is standardize these sorts of interactions so that more devices and platforms can take advantage of them without custom or proprietary integrations. Nearby can also surface physical web beacons, which is a part of “Nearby Notifications” and also has extensions that go beyond just presenting a URL to the user.
Nearby is also incorporated within the Google Play Services so it’s a core part of Android isn’t of depending on the Chrome app. For iOS the API functionality is embedded into each app, and Chrome is still the current method of handling Physical Web.
There’s much more technicals involved with Nearby, such as the criteria that two devices determine they’re nearby, but that’s for another post dedicated to Nearby.
We wrote a brief article on Bluetooth and the Web
Some Physical Web examples: https://google.github.io/physical-web/examples
An interesting overview of Google Nearby from Google I/O 2016: https://youtu.be/Acdu2ZdBaZE