Omnibeacon - Physical Web Platform
We have developed our own Physical Web Beacons and Physical Web Platform, which was launched last year as an MVP and is now being trailed and developed as part of an Innovate UK funded test programme.
What are Physical Web Beacons?
Physical Web Beacons are a relatively new piece of open source technology supported by Google. They are very similar to iBeacons, but instead of broadcasting an unique ID, they broadcast a URL. That URL can send users to a web based service (web page, web app, digital content etc).
What is Eddystone?
Physical Web Beacons need to support and be set up to use the Eddystone protocol to broadcast URLs (sometimes these Physical Web Beacons are also referred to as Eddystone Beacons).
What is a nearby notification?
URLs from Physical Web Beacons can be recognised by Google Chrome (or Nearby Notifications, which is an OS level Google service). These services when activated will constantly scan for and display URLs from nearby Beacons. Any available URLs are shown on the user’s phone in form of low priority ‘nearby notifications’. The closer the beacon, the higher up the list the notifications will come.
What’s the point?
The key advantage of Physical Web Beacons is that you don’t need an app to interact with them. We think there is huge scope for Physical Web services in stores and venues, to connect people with location and context specific content, thereby bridging the physical/digital divide in a more accessible way than apps and much more cost effectively than in-situ screens. For more around the potential uses in retail see our piece on ‘Why The Physical Web will make store apps redundant’.
The Omnifi Physical Web Platform
Our platform builds on the Eddystone standard, but offers three distinct technical advances over other existing Physical Web approaches. We’ve achieved this by taking standard Beacon hardware and re-flashed it with our own software, as well as developing a set of web services and, for the time being, an iOS only app for Beacon programming.
Multiple URLs per Beacon
Our beacon hardware and software allows our hardware to transmit up to three URLs per beacon. In reality we are dynamically switching between single URLs but at a frequency which makes them appear to a device like distinct notifications.
We can also set each URL instance to be broadcast at a different strength/range, effectively creating not only multiple URLs, but also multiple zones. What this means in a store environment is that we could, for example, broadcast one URL to those near the outside the store (e.g. a passer-by or those looking at the window display), one URL to those in main section of the store, and another to those at the back (e.g. changing rooms). Zones could also be assigned to departments on a single floor etc.
What this means is that a single beacon can potentially communicate multiple messages, and each one can be specific to a location and likely customer context/need. This feature contributes to both an efficient (cost-effective) and flexible way of deploying Physical Web Beacons in an in-store or venue environment.
Ability to point to non-https pages
Standard Eddystone Beacons will only point to https pages. This can be limiting for businesses and brands, so we’ve developed a technique that allows users to use any http web page with a Physical Web beacon. The end results are the same. This feature makes our platform more flexible than standard Eddystone compliant beacons and beacon platforms.
Dynamically change URLs
Every URL being transmitted by our Physical Web Beacons can be changed dynamically via our web platform. Even when already in place, a beacon can be set to point to new URLs remotely and these URLs can be changed at will and scheduled to change either at set times, or even through other triggers.
This means that our beacon platform can react and respond to changing contexts and events, updating content in real-time and thereby delivering highly relevant location specific communications. This could be something simple like switching from Breakfast to Lunch offers in restaurant, to offering time-limited offers or responding to peaks in footfall with a link to a customer service number or chat bot.
No batteries required
Standard beacons are normally battery powered. This means no more than 1-2 years in place before needing to have their batteries replaced.
Many of our retail and leisure clients see this as a major logistical and cost issue, so our beacons are built into universal USB units that can be slotted into any USB power source.The units on the left are integrated into standard mains plugs, which means that they can be set-up once and then left in-situ.
Access to our Omnibeacon Platform
If you are a retailer, restaurant or leisure venue owner then you can request free access to our platform and also get one of our Physical Web Beacons on a trial basis.
All you need to do is drop us a line, tell us a bit more about your business and what you plan to use the Beacon for. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you.
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