Google Nearby Replacement

Since Google to stopped serving Android Nearby notifications, marketers have been looking for alternative ways to get messages to smartphones. The Physical Web Association took over the iOS Physical Web app but an Android version hasn’t been forthcoming.

We have been seeing an increasing number of customers buying beacons for Beaconstac’s NearBee. NearBee is an app for iOS and Android that allows you to use Eddystone-URL:

NearBee claims to not only replace Google Nearby but also be better because it also alerts via ringtone or vibration, prevents repeat notifications and shows on the lock screen.

NearBee has been added to the BeaconZone Solutions Directory

Google to Stop Serving Android Nearby Notifications

Google announced yesterday that they are Discontinuing support for Android Nearby Notifications. This is due to:

“a significant increase in locally irrelevant and spammy notifications that were leading to a poor user experience”

This means that anything mentioning the Physical Web, Eddystone-URL or Nearby notifications will no longer work. While beacons can still send out URLs, you will need an app to see the URL and you might as well use Eddystone-UID or iBeacon instead.

It’s disappointing that this mechanism will be turned off on December 6th, 2018. Unfortunately, it attracted use for more nefarious purposes and also resulted in some subscription schemes of dubious value. It’s especially bad news for those people using Nearby notifications legitimately and those companies that have built up platforms and businesses around Nearby notifications.

The Nearby API still works for apps and Google still supports the Proximity beacon API.  With or without this API, it’s still possible to create beacon triggered notifications in iOS and Android apps using the Bluetooth APIs. What’s no longer possible is unsolicited, app-less notifications.

We will be updating BeaconZone documents, blog posts and articles over the next few days. EddystoneCMS will be retired.

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.

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.

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.

Troubleshooting

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

Troubleshooting Eddystone-URL on Android

Troubleshooting Eddystone-URL on iOS

Physical Web Getting Started Tips

Eddystone URL is Being Removed from Chrome on iOS and Android


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 decided to remove Eddystone URL detection from Chrome in iOS and Android. They also won’t be pursuing their Chrome omnibox experiments.

Google have said:

“The iOS widget was a useful tool for demos, but was not actively used by many real users near beacons. The omnibox experiments were a hopeful project, but did not have much impact in practice.”

To be clear, Android OS will still detect Eddystone URL beacons without an app. The biggest affect is that there’s no Google-supplied way to get notifications on iOS. You can create your own app to create notifications yourself or ask users to install and use the Physical Web app, but that’s more friction that just installing Chrome which many people will already have installed.

We have updated all our web pages to avoid any future confusion. However, the very many 3rd party references to using Chrome on iOS (and Android) will probably never be updated. This will lead to more confusion in what’s already a considerably mis-understood aspect of the use of beacons.

Read about Eddystone-URL and The Physical Web.

Tales of The Park Physical Web


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


Mainstream media is starting to become more aware of the Physical Web. The latest issue of the UK paper-based Web User mentions Tales of the Park, that uses Physical Web beacons to point chatbots that engage you with 15 3D-printed creatures around the UK Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

It’s always interesting to see how event spaces introduce new users to the Physical Web to get their phones set up. In this case, they just point users to Google’s instructions that are actually a lot more informative than previously.

Learn More About Eddystone and the Physical Web

Eddystone Beacons

Beacons Mentioned in The Times Newspaper


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


While beacons tend to make the IT news, it’s unusual for them to make the tabloid press. A Google-funded trial using beacons has started this week in Manchester city centre that’s mentioned today in The Times:

Google’s Digital News Initiative uses beacons attached to ten Manchester buildings to send news updates.

“They will allow news providers, businesses and public bodies to beam targeted news and information direct to phones within 100 metres of a particular location.”

Content partners for the experiment include Greater Manchester Police, Manchester City Council, Visit Manchester, as well as the Manchester Evening News.

The service uses Google’s Physical web beacons. There are more details on the Manchester Evening News web site and our article explains Eddystone URL and the Physical Web.