EddystoneCMS Retired

Following on from Google to Stop Serving Android Nearby Notifications, today we have retired EddystoneCMS.

If you want to use beacons for marketing you now need to have an app that listens for iBeacon or Eddystone advertising. In some ways this is better than the discontinued Nearby notifications. For marketers it is more:

  • Reliable – Google’s mechanism wasn’t 100% reliable
  • Transparent – you can more easily diagnose problems when it doesn’t work
  • Accountable – you can collect many more metrics
  • Flexible – a beacon can trigger anything the smartphone can do rather than just a web site

However, this is at the cost of requiring the user to install an app. Marketing using beacons is best retro-fitted into existing apps rather than within marketing specific apps for which you will need a large incentive for consumers to install.

Read about Beacons for Marketing

Android Physical Web App Removed from the Play Store

Important: This web page is provided for historical purposes.

On 25 October 2018, Google announced they are discontinuing Nearby Notifications on Android. This mechanism should no longer be used.

Read about using Beacons for Marketing

Google has removed the Android Physical Web app from the Play Store. This provided a way of scanning for Eddystone beacons without relying on the built-in Android Nearby functionality. As previously mentioned, the Google Physical web team was disbanded. Google have now removed the app, presumably because there’s no-one to maintain it in tandem with new versions of Android. Here’s the final Android Physical Web APK if you wish to side-load the file.

The iOS Physical Web app is still available. The iOS version wasn’t written by Google and has recently been taken over by the non-profit Physical Web Association. We anticipate the Physical Web Association will one day release a new Physical Web app for Android.

New Physical Web Association

Last April we asked if the Physical Web was dead and mentioned that a group of people, led by Agustin Musi from Switzerland, was contemplating creating PhysicalWeb2. The Physical Web Association (PHWA) has now been created as a non-profit association with the goal of driving the development, community, and adoption of the Physical Web. The PHWA is now accepting memberships.

A refreshed TestFlight version of the PhyWeb iOS app is available to members. This new app will be promoted via advertising and the press. In time, the PHWA aims to develop a native app kit to add the Physical Web to existing apps, develop brand-neutral apps for iOS and Android and host a metadata service as, presumably, a substitute for the google Physical Web Proxy.

Is The Physical Web Dead?

Important: This web page is provided for historical purposes.

On 25 October 2018, Google announced they are discontinuing Nearby Notifications on Android. This mechanism should no longer be used.

Read about using Beacons for Marketing

There has been speculation that the Physical Web, as championed by Google, is dead.

Here’s what we know:

  • In October 2017, Google removed Eddystone URL from Chrome on iOS and Android.  Eddystone URL in Chrome on iOS wasn’t being used much and Eddystone detection had been moved to (and is still in the) the Android OS.
  • In November 2017, Google Nearby Beacon Functionality Was Severely Cut by Google. This is different to Eddystone-URL and relies on Eddystone-UID beacons being registered at Google. The result was that the Beacon Tools app only works with Eddsytone GATT beacons (not iBeacons).
  • There has been no activity in the Physical Web GitHub account for about a year. Google is no longer working on improving Eddystone. This is unfortunate because Bluetooth 5 presents lots of new opportunities that require evolution of the Eddystone standard.
  • In 2017, Scott Jenson, the person who brought the Physical Web to Google and became the Product Manager of the Physical Web team, moved to the Chrome UX team and since more recently moved to the Android UX team.
  • Very recently, Scott said “If there was still a Physical Web team, it would be fun to create these more semantic layers on top of the URL.” So, we now know there’s no Physical Web team and there probably hasn’t been since Scott moved teams.
  • The Physical Web Twitter account says “This account is no longer active”.
  • Despite Google moving away from active development of the Physical Web, they are still fixing problems. There was issue with the Physical Web proxy that was recently fixed where “issue triggered in the presence of an invalid URL beacon (ex: a non-HTTPS page) in the proximity of other valid beacons.”. This is reason why some scenarios might not have previously worked (and will now work).

In summary, while new development on Physical Web is dead, the mechanism still works and Google is still applying fixes. Google has removed some functionality that was rarely used and has disbanded the Physical Web team. However, Google is still maintaining the Physical Web proxy and Eddystone notifications still work on Android.

Meanwhile, a group of people led by Agustin Musi from Switzerland is contemplating creating PhysicalWeb2. There’s a Slack channel you can join or you can email them at contactus@phwa.io. There’s also a new site at phwa.io.

Read about using beacons for marketing.

The Top Users of EddystoneCMS

Our free EddystoneCMS currently contains 282 beacons that have had over 55,000 clicks. As with many stats in life, there’s a 20:80 ratio – about 20% of the users create most of the traffic. The larger 80% only have a few clicks and the descriptions and links show these tend to be people testing out Eddystone and/or their beacons. The remaining 20% are almost certainly making productive and profitable use of their beacons. Here are the top 10 users for inspiration:

  1. Michael Clower…Selling Las Vegas One House At A Time
  2. Nasi Goreng Gila Gondrong 81 Pulo Mas Restaurant
  3. LanesGroup
  4. White Cloud Kung Fu
  5. Sell your car here…we beat most Carmax offers we see
  6. Hello From Mr Clever Clean
  7. Click to discover Pure Romance by Yvonne
  8. PG Legal
  9. Something new and exciting is coming to Caversham
  10. Bass Pro Shops

The more observant will notice many of these are not secure (https) web sites. Instead, the https EddystoneCMS mini site contains a link to these sites.

Advanced BlueUp BlueBeacon Sensor in Stock

We now stock the BlueUp BlueBeacon Sensor. This is one of the most capable sensor beacons we know of with up to 8 advertising slots. It detects temperature, humidity and air pressure. It also supports Quuppa and Eddystone GATT Service.

The two AA batteries (included) last 3.5 years with default settings.

Using the nRF Beacon for Eddystone App

There’s a small sub-set of Eddystone beacons that support the Eddystone GATT Service. These are beacons that not only advertise Eddystone but also have software that conforms to a standard Bluetooth Services interface such that the beacon can be configured using generic tools and apps.

Two such apps are nRF connect app and the web-based configuration. Another third app you can use is the nRF Beacon for Eddystone app for Android which is the subject of this post.

The app is designed to be used in conjunction with a Nordic developer kit (DK) board running Eddystone GATT software. However, as the the Bluetooth Services are standard, it works with other Eddystone GATT devices such as the i7 (based on Nordic nRF52).

The first thing to note is the app has two uses. It 1) allows you to configure Eddystone GATT Service beacons and 2) allows beacons to be registered with Google Nearby.

The Google Nearby registration functionality no longer works in this app as Google changed the API. You need to re-build the app yourself from source code with your own API key from Google. If you want this functionality, you are better off using the Google Beacon Tools App. You can read more about Nearby in our article on the BeaconZone site. In most cases you don’t need registration with Nearby and just want to put a URL in the beacon.

Run the app:

The second thing to note is the the first ‘BEACONS’ tab is for Nearby registered beacons. Many people expect local beacons to show up here but they won’t! Instead, go to the ‘UPDATE tab’ and tap on Connect:

Wait a bit and local Eddystone GATT Service beacons will be listed. The beacon needs to be connectable. In the case of the i7, it’s connectable by default but other beacons might need you to press a button or have powered on the beacon within the last n seconds.

Tap on a beacon and it will show the configuration screen. You will be asked for a password if the beacon has a default password (ask your beacon supplier).

Tap on the pencil to the right of the slot to change the URL:

Note that you will will probably need a shortened URL and it needs to point to a secure (https:) web site.

You can also change the advertising interval and transmit power.

There are also some advanced settings:

Beware of making the beacon non-connectable unless you know there’s a physical way to make it connectable otherwise you will never be able to connect to the beacon to administer it again!

View our Eddystone GATT Beacons.

Setting Up Eddystone-URL/Physical Web (with Iotton Beacons)

Important: This web page is provided for historical purposes.

On 25 October 2018, Google announced they are discontinuing Nearby Notifications on Android. This mechanism should no longer be used.

Read about using Beacons for Marketing

We have had several customers trying to set up Eddystone-URL/Physical Web without reading around the subject and understanding how it works. This is something you are unlikely to make work without a little research and preparation. First read our article on Eddystone and the Physical Web to gain a background on how it works.

Before you start, you need to decide whether you will be using a URL shortener. Alternatively, you might choose to use a ready-made solution that includes URL shortening or our free EddystoneCMS.

The next step is to make sure your final, pointed-to URL uses https:// rather than http:// web address otherwise your beacon won’t be seen.

Download and view the quick start guide from the technical area that explains how to power up your beacon and where to obtain the iOS or Android app. This walkthrough shows the screens for iOS but the Android screens are similar.

Run the app and you will see something like this:

The screen will show multiple beacons if there are others in your vicinity. Tap the one that starts with a name ‘ion-‘ as circled above. The app will ask for a password for the beacon:

Type in ‘000000’ (zeros), and tap Ok. You will be taken to the settings screen:

The above circles show what you need to change. First tap on the broadcast mode and select ONLY Eddystone URL and tap Done [You can also transmit the other channels at the same time but it will use a lot more battery power]:

Tap on the broadcast frequency and set it to 1 transmission per second and tap Done:

Tap on the URL and set it to YOUR URL and tap Done:

In the above example we have set it to http://bzone.click/bz that uses our own URL shortener to point to a page on the BeaconZone web site.

You will now see all the changed settings:

Important: Now Tap on Done circled at the top right.

The app will say ‘Succeeded’ and go back to the main screen:

The beacon with name starting ‘ion-‘, shown in the rectangle selection above, is now sending Eddystone and shows the URL.

Install the Physical Web App on iOS and your beacon will be seen. Wait a short while and the beacon will show a notification on Android.


Why Doesn’t the Manufacturer’s Configuration App Connect?

Troubleshooting Eddystone-URL on Android

Troubleshooting Eddystone-URL on iOS

Physical Web Getting Started Tips

Google Nearby Beacon Functionality Severely Cut by Google

Google have quietly cut much of the usefulness of using Nearby with Beacons. The Google Beacon Tools app previously allowed you to register beacons that advertise an id (not URL), even iBeacon, associating the beacon with either a URL or an app so that Android users receive a notification when they come across a beacon.

The Android Google Beacon Tools app that is used to register Nearby beacons has had some updates. Google have removed the capability to register iBeacons and the app now goes into a provisioning state to connect to the beacon being provisioned:

The Android Beacon Tools app can now only connect to and provision Eddystone GATT service Eddystone-UID and Eddystone-EID beacons otherwise it then shows “Eddystone configuration service not supported by this beacon”:

The majority of beacons, not just ours, don’t support Eddystone GATT service. This severely cuts down the types of beacon that can now be registered with the Beacon Tools app (in our case only 7 beacons).

The Nearby programming API, that you can use to register Nearby beacons in your app, still declares it supports iBeacon so it’s still currently possible to register non Eddystone GATT service beacons but not so easily.

This is going to be a problem for organisations who have used Nearby as an alternative to Eddystone-URL. If they have been relying on the Beacon Tools app rather than using their API via their own app, they won’t be able to register more beacons. This puts them into the difficult position of needing to either purchase Eddystone-GATT Service beacons or write an app that uses the API. However, there must have been some reason to restrict Beacon Tools to only Eddystone Standard GATT beacons and this might, one day, also apply to the API.

To be clear, this doesn’t affect Eddystone-URL. Eddystone-URL never, and still doesn’t need, registration at Google.

Together with the recent removal of Eddystone-URL detection from Chrome for iOS, this sees Google distancing Eddystone from iOS and iBeacon from Android OS. Organisations can still write apps that scan for iBeacon or Android and Eddystone on iOS. However, for some unknown reason Google no longer wants to support this in their own apps and tools.