Google Promotes ‘Physical Web’ By Allowing Bluetooth Beacons To Broadcast Info To Your Android Devices

Users of the Chrome beta for Android are in for a bit of a treat, as the latest version has added support for "Physical Web" beacons. Don't worry if you've never heard of these, because most haven't. Google did talk about it a bit last summer, and it seems like a feature that could be incredibly useful at times.

The logic behind the name of "Physical Web" is that data is distributed locally; not over the Internet. The goal is to relay information to those nearby that would prove useful. Say, for example, you're in a restaurant, and as you wait for a seat, a beacon beams the menu to your phone so that you can get a head-start on your choices. Or, you're waiting in line at the airport, and use a beacon to look up flight times and gate numbers.

While those particular solutions might not exist right now, they could. To help us see the big picture, Google relays a couple of examples of Physical Web use that's being used today. Brookwood Middle School in Vance, Alabama, uses beacons to send out class notes, sports achievements, and news updates. Radius Networks, a beacon manufacturer, helped spread information at last month's CES with the help of 1,500 beacons. In sports, we learn that the Golden State Warriors use these beacons to provide fans with highlight videos and other content at the Oracle Arena.

Interestingly, the ability to connect to a Physical Web beacon was first made available in the iOS version of Chrome last summer. It's only just now making its way into the Android version - interesting for a Google product, to say the least.

Physical Web Beacon

Google makes it easy to figure out if you are near a beacon, as the first time you pass one, you'll be prompted to enable access to them. Once done, you'll be notified when in the area of one, and can choose to accept or refuse the data it's trying to give you.

Physical Web beacons overall seem like they could prove extremely useful, especially since you are not automatically given every little bit of information beacons surrounding you offer. With them, though, no data is used, and it could potentially be a more reliable solution for getting quick information about nearby places. Now we wait to see if these will catch on in a big way.