What does Eddystone mean for Retailers?

The Eddystone Lighthouse

With Eddystone, it’s new BLE standard, Google is greatly expanding on what Apple began with the iBeacon standard, and is hinting at a future with ever smarter and more location-aware mobile devices. What are the key takeaways for retailers?

A short history lesson

The BLE standard was originally introduced all the way back in 2010, but did not start gaining momentum until Apple introduced their iBeacon implementation at WWDC in 2013. Since then many companies have adopted the iBeacon standard and begun shipping a combination of iBeacon hardware and iBeacon-enabled apps and services.

The term itself has come to mean any BLE beacon that implements Apple’s protocol, constantly sending out a unique, identifiable number series consisting of two 16-bit integers called the major and the minor identifier and a vendor-specific identifier called a UUID. This means each vendor support up to 4 billion unique devices per registered UUID.

Any mobile device with a BLE chip can react to the presence of these beacons, but only Apple devices come with a fully fleshed-out native implementation to react to their presence and regardless of the platform, an app is required to interpret the meaning of the beacon, since the unique identifiers sent out carry no meaning on the operating system level.

New features

Eddystone consists of four new frame types: Eddystone-UUID, Eddystone-URL, Eddystone-EID and Eddystone-TLM.

Eddystone-UUID: these frames act very similar to an iBeacon frame. It consists of a single 128-bit UUID, which should be sufficient to identify every specific beacon in the world. They will continue to require an app to know how to react to them, allowing developers to implement whatever functionality they choose.

Eddystone-URL: these frames replace the UUID with a URL. While a UUID is very context-specific, a URL is universal; something that can be interacted with using any web browser the user wants to. Ars Technica likens these frames to QR codes, which I think is an apt comparison — a Coke machine can now send out an URL where the user can pay for drinks instead of having them scan a QR code, while a retailer can send out a link to their latest offers catalogue, avoiding the awkward workflow of finding the QR code app and trying to get a good picture before the link can be opened.

Eddystone-EID: EID stands for ephemeral identifier. The full specification is not yet available, but Google has stated that these frames will be secure and usable for personal beacons, such as luggage or key chains, allowing only authorised clients to decode them.

Eddystone-TLM: This final frame type is meant for transmitting different kinds of telemetry data. A beacon might transmit data about the remaining battery level or about the environment, such as the current temperature or humidity.

Eddystone for retailers

With the strict app requirements and lack of native cross-platform SDKs for the iBeacon standard, many retailers have taken a wait-and-see approach to adopting them as part of their marketing and in-store strategies. Eddystone, with it’s cross-platform approach and new frame types is likely to heavily accelerate this adoption.

We think, and others have speculated, that Google will be also integrating support for all of the frames above in Android M — the next big release of their mobile operating system. This will create a huge pressure for any retailer who has not yet adopted a beacon strategy to do so –after all, who wants to miss out on a new way to connect to their customers?

Making the latest offers available for customers in-store with URL frames, securely guiding people to their luggage at airports or passively informing people about the level of air conditioning in your café on a hot summer day, all without requiring an app are just some of the use cases Eddystone will enable for retailers.

Modern brick-and-mortar retail is a tough market, with heavy competition. If you are reading this article, chances are you’re looking for a leg up on your own competition and beacons, along with the new Eddystone standard and a full set of tools for retail analytics might be just what you’re missing.

At Walkbase we are committed to providing retailers with the greatest analytics tools possible, all the way from passive footfall analytics to software for managing fleets of beacons and in-store campaigns. If that sounds like your thing, contact us and we’ll be happy to tell you more.

Originally published at www.njern.co on July 19, 2015.