Eddystone and iBeacon

Comparing the basics of beacon communication protocols, how they work and their use-cases

Bluetooth beacons

Proximity marketing

Eddystone and iBeacon

iBeacon basics

Bluetooth Marketing

EDDYSTONE BEACONS

1. What is Eddystone?

Eddystone is an open communication protocol developed by Google. Services on smartphones, scan for Eddystone URLs and display the content, whether they have an app installed or not.

2. What is the history behind Eddystone's open protocol?

Google rolled out Eddystone in July 2015. It is available as an open-source protocol in Github. The protocol was named after the Eddystone Lighthouse in the UK, as the technology mimics the one-directional nature of a lighthouse-signal and its simplicity.

3. How does Eddystone work? What are Eddystone packets?

Working of proximity marketing

A beacon with Eddystone protocol is simply broadcasting a signal with a data packet. This data packet is detected by a smartphone to trigger the corresponding actions. Under this protocol, a data packet would contain four pieces of information:

4. What is Google Nearby? How is it related to Eddystone?

Nearby is a service developed by Google for Android devices to receive beacon signals. Nearby is the reason why Android phones don't need an app to receive beacon notifications. When beacons broadcast an Eddystone data packet, the Nearby service in Android phones detects the packet.

UPDATE: Nearby Notifications will no longer be supported on Android smartphones after December 6 2018. Please read this blog post to understand how you can continue running proximity marketing campaigns through beacons.

Switch to NearBee to start sending your customers tailored, rich, visually appealing notifications with alerts right to their home screen.

5. What is Samsung CloseBy?

CloseBy was introduced by Samsung to detect beacon signals. CloseBy is a browser extension to make Samsung smartphones compatible with the Physical Web. This is quite similar to Google Nearby in terms of function.

6. What is Physical Web?

The entire Eddystone proximity ecosystem is called the Physical Web. It denotes the convergence of physical and digital worlds. Broadly speaking, Physical Web is the discovery service that enables beacons scan for the smartphones in their range.

To receive Physical Web notifications, the smartphones must have a Physical Web compatible app (or a browser or a service such as Nearby and CloseBy).

Google Chrome browser was a Physical Web browser until Google stopped supporting Physical Web on Chrome. Read more.

7. How to use Eddystone beacons without a business website?

If you don’t have a website, you can use the markdown cards offered by Beaconstac to create your advertisements. You can push these cards to the user’s phones using beacon notifications.

Markdown cards

Download inspirational markdown cards across the verticals - Retail, real estate, hospitality, events and more.

8. Can Eddystone beacons be used without an app? How?

Yes! This is by virtue of the Google Nearby service that comes inbuilt with every Android phone above version 4.3. The Nearby service enables the Android phones to receive notifications without having to download any special app.

UPDATE: Since Nearby is shutting down after December 6 2018, please read our blog post that will help you transition to NearBee - the best Google Nearby alternative which is better and far superior to Google Nearby.

Samsung closeby and Android nearby sevices

9. What are the advantages of Eddystone over iBeacon?

10. Do all Beaconstac beacons support Eddystone?

Beaconstac offers 6 hardware options:

All the six support both Eddystone and iBeacon protocol. Check out our hardware data sheet for technical specifications.

Beacon marketing without an app

iBEACON

1. What is iBeacon protocol?

iBeacon is a protocol developed by Apple, that enables smartphones to scan for beacon signals in the range and display the corresponding content. Beaconstac SDK is an easy way to enable location analytics and proximity marketing through BLE networks. If you are looking to simply trigger rich beacon notifications, you can also the NearBee SDK for iOS.

2. What is the history behind Apple’s iBeacon protocol?

iBeacon was introduced by Apple at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 2013. In the same year, experts wrote on how iBeacon can help the retail industry by simplifying payments and enabling other on-site offers. In December 2013, Apple activated iBeacon in its 254 US retail stores. Ever since iBeacon as experienced an upward trajectory path.

3. How does iBeacon work?

A beacon with iBeacon protocol broadcasts a serial ID number which is then used by the corresponding app in the user’s smartphone to return results. iBeacon features a standardized format for BLE advertising in which, every data packet contains 4 pieces of information:

iBeacon data packet format

4. What is BLE communication? How does it work?

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a wireless personal area network technology for short distance data transmission. As the name hints, it’s designed for low energy consumption and cost, while possessing a communication range similar to that of the regular Bluetooth.

BLE communication consists of small packets of data and broadcasts at a regular interval by Beacons via radio waves. iBeacon standard calls for a broadcast interval of 100 ms.

5. What is the range of iBeacon?

The transmission distance is categorized into 3 distinct ranges:

  1. Immediate: Within a few centimeters
  2. Near: Within 2 meters
  3. Far: Above 10 meters

The maximum range of transmission depends on the location and obstructions in the device’s environment. Standard beacons have an approximate transmission range of 70 meters. Long range beacons can transmit up to 300 meters.

iBeacon range

6. Do all Beaconstac hardware support iBeacon protocol?

Beaconstac offers 5 hardware options:

All the five support both Eddystone and iBeacon protocol. Check out our hardware data sheet for technical specifications.

Types of beacons

7. Can iBeacon be used with Android phones?

Yes, but they work in different ways. Only iOS devices regularly scan for BLE signals and wake up the corresponding apps when the devices are in proximity to the beacon. But for Android users need to have the app running on their device (at least in the background) to interact with beacons.

8. Can iBeacon be used for proximity campaigns on iOS device with apps?

Yes. You can run your proximity campaigns using an iOS app. There are two ways of doing this:

i. Integrating with your own app

The core objective of integrating beacons with apps is personalization. Beacons use the user info fetched during the sign-up process to send personalized messages. You can also analyze the customers need by observing the way they use their app. For example, if you have an online store, you can analyze customer’s shopping patterns and send relevant offers based on them.

ii. Collaborating with a third party app

90% of smartphone users have at least one subscription to a rewards program app! When you don't have an app, you can take your campaigns forward by collaborating with other third party apps. For Example, the Nearbee app that Beaconstac has designed exclusively for businesses that doesn’t have an iOS app.

9. What are the iBeacon use cases?

Among many other use cases, these are few of them -

A. Restaurants and bars:

B. Hotels:

C. Retail stores

D. Airports and Railway Stations

10. iBeacon vs RFID vs NFC vs GPS

Despite the existence of other proximity marketing technologies like the NFC, RFID, GPS, and Wi-Fi, Bluetooth beacons are dominating the market. Here are the reasons why:

Advantages of iBeacon over GPS

Advantages of iBeacon over NFC

Advantages of iBeacon over RFID

iBeacon and Wi-Fi are rather a power couple than rivals

They work the best when used together and here are a few use-cases:

QR code RFID BLE beacons WiFi NFC
Maximum coverage range 1.5-2.5 feet 3-4 feet Up to 330 feet Up to 150 feet Very short ranges(20 cm)
Access/Readers Very few smartphones have inbuilt QR code apps. Needs special readers. All smartphones with Bluetooth4.0+(Bluetooth Smart) Most smartphones are equipped Android devices only. Not available on iOS
Energy consumption Low Low Low High Low
Cost Low High Low High Low
Usage Scanning for information Inventory tracking, Item identification Proximity notifications, Mobile payments, Asset tracking, indoor navigation and more Multiple Payments
Engagement One-to-one One-to-one One-to-one or one-to-many One-to-many One-to-one
Information Information is constant. Cannot be personalized. Information is constant and embedded in the tag. Information is dynamic and can be personalized based on location, frequency, time of day. Information is dynamic and can be personalized based on location, frequency, time of day etc. Information is constant and embedded in the tag.

11. Does using iBeacon technology put user’s private data at risk?

Beacons are broadcast-only-devices. They are not capable of tracking consumers unless the customer gives certain permissions to the iOS app. Thus, the users can control the privacy of their data by giving or rejecting permissions to the app.

12. Which are few of the successful iBeacon campaigns?

Brands like Heineken, Coca-Cola and Screenvision are a few of the many companies that integrated beacons with their app and ran successful ibeacon campaigns. Read our blog post to know about other successful implementations of beacons.

Beacon marketing with an app

EDDYSTONE vs iBEACON

  Apple’s iBeacon Google’s Eddystone
Technology iBeacon technology is a beacon protocol that has been built into Apple’s iOS 7 and later versions of mobile operating system that allows iPhones and iPads to constantly scan for Bluetooth devices nearby. Beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) which is a part of Bluetooth 4.0 specification. Google’s Eddystone, formerly called UriBeacon, is a beacon protocol for open-source beacons which could be manufactured by any business at an affordable cost.
Compatibility It is Android and iOS compatible, but native only for iOS. It is Android and iOS compatible. In fact, it is cross-platform and thus is compatible with any platform that supports BLE beacons.
Profile It is a proprietary software. Thus, the specification is controlled by Apple. It is open-source. The specification is published openly on GitHub, under the open-source Apache v2.0 license, so that businesses and developers can access and contribute to it.
Ease of use It is simple to implement. It is flexible but requires more complicated coding when it comes to integration, since it sends more packets of information than iBeacon.
Broadcasted packets Each beacon broadcasts information which is identified as a packet. iBeacon broadcasts only one advertising packet which has a unique ID number comprising of three parts - UUID, Major, and Minor. Eddystone broadcasts three different packets:
(i) a unique ID number (Eddystone-UID) - It is fundamentally identical to that in iBeacon. All beacons that broadcast Eddystone-UID are registered in Google’s database.
(ii) a URL address (Eddystone-URL) - It tells the smart device to open a URL. That way, it does not require a particular developer’s app to be pre-installed. Additionally, it also works as a factor to push location-specific app installs.
(iii) sensor telemetry (Eddystone-TLM) - It sends sensor data. This is extremely useful for companies that need to manage vast fleets of beacons since this frame type sends diagnostic data and beacon health statistics.
Usage UUIDs, one of the components in the advertising packet, are basically tied in to the developer's server. Therefore, when it is sent to a smartphone, the device would need a specific app to do a particular task with the information received. Therefore, a mobile app is necessary to receive messages via iBeacon. Eddystone, on the other hand, sends out URL in place of UUID, which can simply open in a web browser vis-à-vis specific apps. For iOS devices, it is supported by Chrome with the ‘Today’ notifications enabled, whereas for Android devices, it is supported on the ‘Physical Web’ browser.
Security and Privacy There is no specific feature such as Ephemeral Identifiers (EIDs) in iBeacon. The signal transmitted by a beacon is a public signal and can be detected by any iOS device and certain Android devices with proper specifications. Eddystone has a built-in feature called EIDs that constantly change and allow beacons to broadcast a signal that can only be identified by ‘authorized clients’.
API Apple has no specific API made available for iBeacon fleet management. Application Program Interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. It specifies how software components should interact. Eddystone has an advantage here since Google has launched two APIs (Nearby API and Proximity Beacon API) that makes Eddystone beacons more powerful. These APIs also make beacon fleet management much easier.
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