With the launch of Eddystone in July 2015, google has finally addressed the long awaited challenge of creating a robust android development tool using beacons.
This move by google is considered by many as a showdown between Google and Apple. Some even consider Eddystone as a rival to Apple’s iBeacon. We cant blame them, as it makes a good copy 🙂 . However if we have a closer look we will find that the introduction of Eddystone by Google has made life much easier for developers and beacon device manufacturing companies.
Apple announced iBeacon in December 2013 with the primary motive of aiding people in shopping at their Apple Stores. A beacon-equipped store could instantly send out in-store promotion offers to the customers present inside the store. Alternatively exhibitions could deploy the technology to send instant coupons and information about the exhibits for people to view them. However iBeacon works only with select compatible idevices. This means that only a limited small percentage of smartphone users can actually use iBeacon.
On the other hand, Eddystone is open source and offers cross-platform support for both Android and iOS devices. This gives Eddystone a clear edge over iBeacon. Another advantage is that, unlike iBeacon, Eddystone supports multiple frame types which can perform a vast number of functionalities.
Now let us delve a little deep into the differences:
iBeacon is apple’s proprietary protocol which officially works only with iOS devices. iBeacon transmits three advertisements namely: UUID (Universally Unique Identifier) A major value, and A minor value. An iBeacon advertisement always follows a strict format. An example of an iBeacon frame could look like:
where, 1b4eae482e61e99b1a1399e166f268881442cc59 is the UUID.
Eddystone is an open source protocol which works with iOS and Android devices. The Eddystone protocol advertises a frame which is one-directional in nature. Each frame can be divided into 3 types: URL (Uniform Resource Identifier) UID (same as UUID) TLM (Telemetry) Using Eddystone a single Beacon can transmit one, two or all three types of frames. Unlike iBeacon, the Eddystone URL does NOT require a custom application to be pre-installed into the device. On the contrary, it requires a beacon-browser. The broadcasted URL is simply a web page which can be linked to any site on the internet. The Eddystone UID comprises of a 16-digit string of characters, which is divided into “Namespace” string (10 characters) and “Instance” (6 character) string. Eddystone UID requires a pre-installed custom app in order to receive beacon notifictions. The Eddystone TLM frame or telemetry frame is designed for reporting on a beacon’s health. Currently this frame includes the beacon’s battery state, its temperature, the time since power-on, and a count of the advertising packets since power-on, but it could also include other sensor data in the future.