Bluetooth beacons mark important places and objects in a way that your phone understands. Last year, we introduced the Google beacon platform including Eddystone, Nearby Messages and the Proximity Beacon API that helps developers build beacon-powered proximity and location features in their apps. Since then, we’ve learned that when deployment of physical infrastructure is involved, it’s important to get the best possible value from your investment. That’s why the Google beacon platform works differently from the traditional approach. We don’t think of beacons as only pointing to a single feature in an app, or a single web resource. Instead, the Google beacon platform enables extensible location infrastructure that you can manage through your Google Developer project and reuse many times. Each beacon can take part in several different interactions: through your app, through other developers’ apps, through Google services, and the web. All of this functionality works transparently across Eddystone-UID and Eddystone-EID -- because using our APIs means you never have to think about monitoring for the individual bytes that a beacon is broadcasting. For example, we’re excited that the City of Amsterdam has adopted Eddystone and the newly released publicly visible namespace feature for the foundation of their open beacon network. Or, through Nearby Notifications, Eddystone and the Google beacon platform enable explorers of the BFG Dream Jar Trail to discover cloud-updateable content in Dream Jars across London. To make getting started as easy as possible we’ve provided a set of tools to help developers, including links to beacon manufacturers that can help you with Eddystone, Beacon Tools (for Android and iOS), the Beacon Dashboard, a codelab and of course our documentation. And, if you were not able to attend Google I/O in person this year, you can watch my session, Location and Proximity Superpowers: Eddystone + Google Beacon Platform: We can’t wait to see what you build!
About Peter: I am a Product Manager for the Google beacon platform, including the open beacon format Eddystone, and Google's cloud services that integrate beacon technology with first and third party apps. When I’m not working at Google I enjoy taking my dog, Oscar, for walks on Hampstead Heath.
Today we're launching Nearby on Android, a new surface for users to discover and interact with the things around them. This extends the Nearby APIs we launched last year, which make it easy to discover and communicate with other nearby devices and beacons. Earlier this year, we also started experimenting with Physical Web beacons in Chrome for Android. With Nearby, we’re taking this a step further.
Imagine pulling up a barcode scanner when you’re at the store, or discovering an audio tour while you’re exploring a museum–these are the sorts of experiences that Nearby can enable. To make this possible, we're allowing developers to associate their mobile app or a website with a beacon.
A number of developers have already been building compelling proximity-based experiences, using beacons and Nearby:
CVSworks with Radius Networks to help in-store customers order their photos in minutes, and print at the kiosk
Airside’s Mobile Passport works with Bluvision to help airport travelers skip the US Customs line by pre-registering and submitting their declaration form online via their mobile phone.
Getting started is simple. First, get some Eddystone Beacons- you can order these from any one of our Eddystone-certified manufacturers. Android devices and and other BLE-equipped smart devices can also be configured to broadcast in the Eddystone Format.
Nearby has started rolling out to users as part of the upcoming Google Play Services release and will work on Android devices running 4.4 (KitKat) and above. Check out our developer documentation to get started. To learn more about Nearby Notifications in Android, also check out our I/O 2016 session, starting at 17:10.
Posted by Nirdhar Khazanie, Product Manager and Yossi Matias, VP Engineering
Last July, we launched Eddystone, an open and extensible Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon format from Google, supported by Android, iOS, and Chrome. Beacons mark important places and objects in a way that your phone can understand. To do this, they typically broadcast public one-way signals ‒ such as an Eddystone-UID or -URL.
Today, we're introducing Ephemeral IDs (EID), a beacon frame in the Eddystone format that gives developers more power to control who can make use of the beacon signal. Eddystone-EID enables a new set of use cases where it is important for users to be able to exchange information securely and privately. Since the beacon frame changes periodically, the signal is only useful to clients with access to a resolution service that maps the beacon’s current identifier to stable data. In other words, the signal is only recognizable to a controlled set of users. In this post we’ll provide a bit more detail about this feature, as well as Google’s implementation of Eddystone-EID with Google Cloud Platform’s Proximity Beacon API and the Nearby API for Android and CocoaPod for iOS. Technical Specifications
To an observer of an Eddystone-EID beacon, the AES-encrypted eight byte beacon identifier changes pseudo-randomly with an average period that is set by the developer ‒ over a range from 1 second to just over 9 hours. The identifier is generated using a key and timer running on the beacon. When the beacon is provisioned, or set up, the key is generated and exchanged with a resolution service such as Proximity Beacon API using an Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman key agreement protocol, and the timer is synchronized with the service. This way, only the beacon and the service that it is registered with have access to the key. You can read more about the technical details of Eddystone-EID from the specification ‒ including the provisioning process ‒ on GitHub, or from our recent preprint.
An Eddystone-EID contains measures designed to prevent a variety of nuanced attacks. For example, the rotation period for a single beacon varies slightly from identifier to identifier, meaning that an attacker cannot use a consistent period to identify a particular beacon. Eddystone-EID also enables safety features such as proximity awareness, device authentication, and data encryption on packet transmission. The Eddystone-TLM frame has also been extended with a new version that broadcasts battery level also encrypted with the shared key, meaning that an attacker cannot use the battery level as an identifying feature either.
When correctly implemented and combined with a service that supports a range of access control checks, such as Proximity Beacon API, this pattern has several advantages:
The beacon’s location cannot be spoofed, except by a real-time relay of the beacon signal. This makes it ideal for use cases where a developer wishes to enable premium features for a user at a location.
Beacons provide a high-quality and precise location signal that is valuable to the deployer. Eddystone-EID enables deployers to decide which developers/businesses can make use of that signal.
Eddystone-EID beacons can be integrated into devices that users carry with them without leaving users vulnerable to tracking.
Integrating Seamlessly with the Google Beacon Platform
Launching today on Android and iOS, is a new addition to the wider Google beacon platform: Beacon Tools. Beacon Tools allows you to provision and register an Eddystone-EID beacon, as well as associate content with your beacon through the Google Cloud Platform.
In addition to Eddystone-EID and the new encrypted version of the previously available Eddystone-TLM, we’re also adding a common configuration protocol to the Eddystone family. The Eddystone GATT service allows any Eddystone beacon to be provisioned by any tool that supports the protocol. This encourages the development of an open ecosystem of beacon products, both in hardware and software, removing restrictions for developers. Eddystone-EID Support in the Beacon Industry
We’re excited to have worked with a variety of industry players as Eddystone-EID develops. Over the past year, Eddystone manufacturers in the beacon space have grown from 5 to over 25. The following 15 manufacturers will be supporting Eddystone-EID, with more to follow:
In addition to beacon manufacturers, we’ve been working with a range of innovative companies to demonstrate Eddystone-EID in a variety of different scenarios.
Samsonite and Accent Systems have developed a suitcase with Eddystone-EID where users can securely keep track of their personal luggage.
K11 is a Hong Kong museum and retail experience using Sensoro Eddystone-EID beacons for visitor tours and customer promotions.
Monumental Sports in Washington, DC, uses Radius Networks Eddystone-EID beacons for delivering customer rewards during Washington Wizards and Capitals sporting events.
Sparta Digital has produced an app called Buzzin that uses Eddystone-EID beacons deployed in Manchester, UK to enable a more seamless transit experience.
You can get started with Eddystone-EID by creating a Google Cloud Platform project and purchasing compatible hardware through one of our manufacturers. Best of all, Eddystone-EID works transparently to beacon subscriptions created through the Google Play Services Nearby Messages API, allowing you to run combined networks of Eddystone-EID and Eddystone-UID transparently in your client code!
Posted by Chandu Thota, Engineering Director and Matthew Kulick, Product Manager
Just like lighthouses have helped sailors navigate the world for thousands of years, electronic beacons can be used to provide precise location and contextual cues within apps to help you navigate the world. For instance, a beacon can label a bus stop so your phone knows to have your ticket ready, or a museum app can provide background on the exhibit you’re standing in front of. Today, we’re beginning to roll out a new set of features to help developers build apps using this technology. This includes a new open format for Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons to communicate with people’s devices, a way for you to add this meaningful data to your apps and to Google services, as well as a way to manage your fleet of beacons efficiently.
Eddystone: an open BLE beacon format
Working closely with partners in the BLE beacon industry, we’ve learned a lot about the needs and the limitations of existing beacon technology. So we set out to build a new class of beacons that addresses real-life use-cases, cross-platform support, and security.
At the core of what it means to be a BLE beacon is the frame format—i.e., a language—that a beacon sends out into the world. Today, we’re expanding the range of use cases for beacon technology by publishing a new and open format for BLE beacons that anyone can use: Eddystone. 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.
By design, a beacon is meant to be discoverable by any nearby Bluetooth Smart device, via its identifier which is a public signal. At the same time, privacy and security are really important, so we built in a feature called Ephemeral Identifiers (EIDs) which change frequently, and allow only authorized clients to decode them. EIDs will enable you to securely do things like find your luggage once you get off the plane or find your lost keys. We’ll publish the technical specs of this design soon.
Eddystone for developers: Better context for your apps
Eddystone offers two key developer benefits: better semantic context and precise location. To support these, we’re launching two new APIs. The Nearby API for Android and iOS makes it easier for apps to find and communicate with nearby devices and beacons, such as a specific bus stop or a particular art exhibit in a museum, providing better context. And the Proximity Beacon API lets developers associate semantic location (i.e., a place associated with a lat/long) and related data with beacons, stored in the cloud. This API will also be used in existing location APIs, such as the next version of the Places API.
Eddystone for beacon manufacturers: Single hardware for multiple platforms
Eddystone’s extensible frame formats allow hardware manufacturers to support multiple mobile platforms and application scenarios with a single piece of hardware. An existing BLE beacon can be made Eddystone compliant with a simple firmware update. At the core, we built Eddystone as an open and extensible protocol that’s also interoperable, so we’ll also introduce an Eddystone certification process in the near future by closely working with hardware manufacturing partners. We already have a number of partners that have built Eddystone-compliant beacons.
Eddystone for businesses: Secure and manage your beacon fleet with ease
As businesses move from validating their beacon-assisted apps to deploying beacons at scale in places like stadiums and transit stations, hardware installation and maintenance can be challenging: which beacons are working, broken, missing or displaced? So starting today, beacons that implement Eddystone’s telemetry frame (Eddystone-TLM) in combination with the Proximity Beacon API’s diagnostic endpoint can help deployers monitor their beacons’ battery health and displacement—common logistical challenges with low-cost beacon hardware.
Eddystone for Google products: New, improved user experiences
We’re also starting to improve Google’s own products and services with beacons. Google Maps launched beacon-based transit notifications in Portland earlier this year, to help people get faster access to real-time transit schedules for specific stations. And soon, Google Now will also be able to use this contextual information to help prioritize the most relevant cards, like showing you menu items when you’re inside a restaurant.
We want to make beacons useful even when a mobile app is not available; to that end, the Physical Web project will be using Eddystone beacons that broadcast URLs to help people interact with their surroundings.
Beacons are an important way to deliver better experiences for users of your apps, whether you choose to use Eddystone with your own products and services or as part of a broader Google solution like the Places API or Nearby API. The ecosystem of app developers and beacon manufacturers is important in pushing these technologies forward and the best ideas won’t come from just one company, so we encourage you to get some Eddystone-supported beacons today from our partners and begin building!