IoT News Roundup

Google unwraps new beacon format; CentraLite using Kickstarter to crowdfund IoT platform; Vodafone releases 2015 M2M Barometer report; Gemalto, China Telecom partnering on connected car technology.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jul 17, 2015

Google Takes On Apple's iBeacon With Eddystone Beacon Platform
Google this week unveiled Eddystone, an open-source beacon-management platform that is the search giant's answer to Apple's iBeacon platform.

Today, retailers and other organizations work to engage with customers or track their movements by offering applications that are triggered inside stores by Bluetooth beacons—devices that transmit a unique identifier using the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) air-interface specification. Most of these are configured to transmit data using the iBeacon data format. This format dictates that the beacon transmit its universally unique identifier (UUID). It can also send two more small packets of data that relate to where the beacon is located within a defined space. If a smartphone is within the vicinity, the UUID packet can trigger a pre-loaded application on the phone (which generally pushes some sort of offer or notification message).

The Eddystone format, which Google has made available via open source, under Apache 2.0 licensing, on GitHub, can be used in the same way. It can transmit a unique ID (the Eddystone-UID)— which, like the iBeacon UUID, triggers an action in the receiving device. But in addition to this, Eddystone accommodates two other types of data packets: the Eddystone-URL and Eddystone-TLM.

The Eddystone-URL data packet, as the name implies, transmits a URL via Bluetooth that pushes a notice to the receiver regarding a specific URL that the receiver can agree to open directly in a Web browser. This means the receiving device does not need a special app in order to actuate an event. The Eddystone-URL evolved out of UriBeacon, an experimental approach that Google launched last year as a means of using beacons to broadcast URLs. Google also considers Eddystone-URL to be the backbone of another project, called The Physical Web, an approach to interacting with connected devices that removes the need for specific applications to trigger events. In February 2015, Turkish beacon company Blesh began offering beacons and a content-management systems (CMS) software developer's kit (SDK) as part of the Physical Web project.

The Eddystone-TLM data packet is designed to make it easier to manage large networks of beacons, by providing the beacons with a means to transmit data about their own operation to the entity managing the network. This telemetry could be the beacon's available battery life, for example. The TLM packet can also be used to transmit sensory data.

Google is currently working on a security feature for the Eddystone format, in which beacons would transmit dynamic ephemeral identifiers (EIDs). These will change frequently, and will allow only authorized clients to decode them.

Another important distinction is that while the iBeacon format works only with iOS devices, Eddystone works with both iOS and Android operating systems. This would be useful for large beacon networks inside sports stadiums, for example, or in factories or across an enterprise.

Developers will be able to manage and update beacons using Google's Proximity Beacon API, while they can use Google's Nearby API to enable easy communication between phones and apps, or to help multiple devices perform collaborative functions, such as editing common documents.

Google has vetted the Eddystone format with six beacon manufacturers that are now supporting Eddystone provisioning. These are Bkon, Bluvision, Estimote,, Radius Networks and Signal360.

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