Eddystone and iBeacon are protocols. A protocol is a language used to power physical hardware. In the same way that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are languages for radio communications, beacon protocols like Eddystone and iBeacon are the languages of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). The two main players are iBeacon, created by Apple in 2013, an Eddystone, created by Google in 2015. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacons can use either protocol, which leaves you and other buyers with a choice. Your decision will be informed by your desired use-case and the unique capabilities of each protocol.
Benefits: iBeacon is natively supported in iOS and also has integrations with mobile OS. Here’s the biggest perk of the iBeacon protocol: it can wake up applications on iOS and Android. What this means in retail use-cases is that a customer does not need to open the store’s app to begin receiving marketing and advertising notifications. iBeacon will activate the app and begin data transmission immediately.
Signal Info: iBeacon’s signal is comprised of three pieces of information: (1) A Unique Universal Identifier (UUID) which stores a beacon’s general information. (2) A Major Identifier which stores general location data. (3) A Minor Identifier which stores specific location data.
Benefits: Eddystone is able to send URLs to Bluetooth-enabled devices without an application acting as a middle-man. This really broadens the scope of your campaigns. Eddystone is “open” meaning that multiple companies have collaborated on the protocol. This makes it flexible, customizable, and capable of broadcasting extra data. It is suitable for a wider range of operating systems.
Signal Info: Eddystone’s signal is comprised of four pieces of information: (1) Unique ID which carries general information. (2) A URL which can send users to the Web. (3) Telemetry Data (TLM) which sends signals on beacon’s health and battery life along with sensor data to the cloud. (4) An EID which enhances beacon security. EIDs create a secure environment as encrypted IDs which self destruct soon after transmission. As a result, would-be hackers cannot hijack your beacons.
Nearby Notifications: In an effort to reach a wider audience and expand the physical web, Google launched Nearby Notifications in 2016 allowing developers to link a website or application with a beacon towards creating contextual, location-aware notification. Nearby lets businesses reach customers without an application through the advertisement of https URLs, the prompting of application installs, and triggering an application intent. For example, a retail location can send push-notifications to all Bluetooth-enabled smart devices, advertising one-click app downloads to access a special feature such as scanning product barcodes to access online reviews of products in-store. Pesky app-permissions are circumvented through overarching permissions which apply to all user applications.
Note: Many beacon manufacturers do not make customers choose between the two protocols. Beacons are often capable of using either language. If your campaign will be focused on an application – whether it be for retail, transit, healthcare, iBeacon might be the best protocol for you. If you would like more flexibility and the ability to reach a wider audience sans app, Eddystone has a bit of an edge.