Google entered the beacon space when it launched Eddystone in July 2015, two years after Apple introduced iBeacon technology. In the presence of the two giants, Apple and Google, this relatively new technology saw a lot of traction. Businesses started identifying opportunities to leverage innovative application scopes of beacons and beacon-enabled app development to offer a holistic user experience to consumers.
2016 is poised to be the year of the beacon. In the past year, we have already seen a number of large-scale beacon deployments by well-known retailers such as Target, Macy’s, Big W, and so on. With a growing number of businesses jumping onto the beacon bandwagon, there is a need to understand the basic features extended by both iBeacon and Eddystone. Let’s assess the differences between the two beacon protocols to see what they offer.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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’.
||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.
Eddystone’s entry into the beacon space has surely changed the game for iBeacon technology. This open-source BLE platform is in fact forecasted to become the dominant standard in the BLE beacon industry by 2020, according to ABI Research. To explore more about Eddystone beacons, read our Eddystone FAQs blog and another one that discusses how Eddystone can impact businesses.
If you are planning a beacon pilot, take a look at Beaconstac, that includes everything you need to get started. Using Beaconstac you can set up your own campaign, without a developer’s help!