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Google Eddystone vs. Apple iBeacon: Big Clash Between Tiny Bluetooth Beacons

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Google is gearing up to throw the gauntlet at Apple's iBeacon with the launch of its Eddystone.

Eddystone is a new Bluetooth LE technology that is basically a tiny transmitter able to beam signals to devices in the vicinity. It can transmit data on a particular point of interest, which is then picked up covertly by a mobile device in the transmitter's range.

"Eddystone is robust and extensible: It supports multiple frame types for different use cases, and it supports versioning to make introducing new functionality easier. It's cross-platform, capable of supporting Android, iOS or any platform that supports BLE beacons. And it's available on GitHub under the open-source Apache v2.0 license, for everyone to use and help improve," notes Google.

Since Eddystone is open source and offers cross-platform support for both iOS and Android, it has an edge over iBeacon, which works only with select compatible iDevices. This basically means that the iBeacon has limitations since only a small percentage of smartphone users in the U.S. and worldwide will be able to use iBeacon.

iBeacons have been deployed primarily by Apple to aid people in shopping at Apple Stores. For instance, a store that is beacon-equipped would be able to send out in-store promotions to the customers in the store at the time instantly. Alternatively, museums could deploy the technology to send data on museum exhibits for people to view them.

The open source ability of Eddystone is a major advantage it has over iBeacon. Another difference between the two Bluetooth transmitters is that, unlike iBeacon, Eddystone is able to support multiple "frame types" i.e. data payloads that are able to perform a slew of functionalities.

iBeacons essentially send out only UUIDs that are basically tied in to the developer's server. Therefore, one needs the specific app to do a particular task with the information. Eddystone, on the other hand, sends out URL in place of UUID. The former is friction free and universal and can open in a Web browser vis-à-vis specific apps and is perfect for single data transactions.

URLs are the "QR Code" variant if a beacon and the advantage is that one does not require a QR Code reader app. Moreover, one does not need to take an image of the QR code.

With the onset of beacons, users will be able to take advantage of automation capabilities and other new functionalities for retail apps. Since existing BLEs can be made Eddystone compatible, the Bluetooth beacon has a bright future ahead.

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