Released by Google in July 2015, the Eddystone Beacon protocol is a relatively new protocol, but it is already being experimented with and adapted in many industries.
Like the iBeacon released by Apple in 2013, Eddystone beacons operate on the basic premise of broadcasting Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals from a piece of hardware to communicate simple data to other devices. (For beacon basics, see our article here.)
Eddystone brought a few changes from the iBeacon protocol announced by Apple in 2013. It is open source, meaning that its code is continuously updated by developers from the public and can be changed, modified or adapted. This means that Eddystone is more friendly to developers who would like to gain access to the code to customize it. It is also cross-platform, meaning it can operate with both iOS and Android devices, a departure from the iBeacon which functions better with iOS. Eddystone also expands the capabilities of the Physical Web, a Google project to give mobile device users the capability to walk up to physical objects and link to the Internet. This is a large undertaking still in the early stages, and Eddystone offers an opportunity for the Physical Web to grow as more companies and industries employ Eddystone.
Eddystone is growing fast
Eddystone protocol is expanding, as people in retail, healthcare, safety and other diverse areas adopt its capabilities. Their capability of approximating location with better accuracy than WiFi or GPS opens up potential to interact with clients, customers or other users in a more intimate and personalized way. BeaconGrid has taken Eddystone and iBeacon protocols and integrated them in its own hardware devices that can help their customers use this technology with ease and efficiency. While the basic function of Eddystone is simple, the workings can get complicated when managing or configuring a fleet of Eddystones. BeaconGrid has created a process of managing them that allows you to use Eddystone to track where your assets or employees are, for example, in a large area.
Using Eddystone can be simple or challenging depending on how far you want to customize it and the frametype you want to use. In the rest of this article, we explain the different types of beacon signals, their protocols, common uses and how you can use Eddystone with BeaconGrid.
Eddystone provides four different options for beacon signals
Eddystone can be configured into four different frame types, Eddystone-UID, Eddystone-EID, Eddystone-URL and Eddystone-TLM. A frame is a setup that allows particular beacon signals to be broadcasted.
- The Eddystone-UID frame broadcasts a unique ID number of 16 numbers that identifies the beacon using it. The Eddystone-UID is used primarily by apps on client devices, which can push relevant information to the client or prompt him/her to take an action.
- The EID in Eddystone-EID stands for Ephemeral ID, a value that fluctuates at a rate determined when the beacon was initially registered with a web service. The constantly changing value makes it valuable for security purposes. Like the UID, the EID works in conjunction with apps.
- The Eddystone-URL frame broadcasts compressed URLs whose information can fit in a beacon signal. The links can be received by any Bluetooth-capable device, allowing it to access the specific link.
- The Eddystone-TLM frame broadcasts signals that contain information about the beacon device, such as battery life, number of packets broadcasted since start-up and device temperature. It must be paired with Eddystone-UID, Eddystone-URL or Eddystone-EID when broadcasted. It is most useful for beacon owners for fleet management.
A basic diagram of the uses of the different eddystone beacon signals.
Each Eddystone frametype has a protocol for usage
Using each frame type can be simple or complicated depending on which one you use and how many signals you interleave. Some beacon companies will simplify the work you need to do, but here is a broad summary of each protocol to get you started. BeaconGrid hardware is capable of broadcasting Eddystone-UID, Eddystone-TLM, and Eddystone-URL, simultaneously.
- The Eddystone-UID is a unique 16-byte number that is further composed of a 10-byte namespace and a 6-byte instance. The namespace portion is a number shared by a particular set of beacons, while the instance identifies the individual device within the group. Info on frame specification here.
- The Eddystone-EID is an ID of 8-bytes that identifies the beacon corresponding to it. However, the ID changes constantly when broadcasted from the beacon and can only be read accurately by a trusted device. The protocol for registering the EID to a trusted device is complex and can be found in more detail here. It is not recommended to pair Eddystone-EID with most other signals because of security purposes. More info on frame specification here.
- The Eddystone-URL frame is perhaps the simplest one to use. All you need to do is associate the beacon with a particular URL, and your beacon is ready for deployment. The URL often begins with https:// for security enhancement. Learn more about the frame specification here.
- The Eddystone-TLM comes in two types of frame specifications: encrypted, for enhanced security, and unencrypted. Eddystone-TLM must be paired with another frame type in order to for the telemetry information to be associated with the proper beacon device. The unencrypted Eddystone-TLM can be paired with Eddystone-UID or Eddystone-URL, but the encrypted Eddystone-TLM should only be paired with Eddystone-EID. Encrypted signals are more secure and can only be properly read by trusted devices. On the other hand, regular signals can be read by any device that can read the paired signal, the UID or URL. Encrypted signals are more complex to set up than regular signals. You can read more about the two types of frame specifications for encrypted and unencrypted.
Basic table of the uses and complexity of the different eddystone beacon frametypes.
Eddystone has versatile uses
The differences in the protocols of the Eddystone frame types lead into their different usages.
Eddystone-UID has wide applicability in marketing and navigation. Let’s say that you would like to help users navigate a museum. You can create an app that uses the Eddystone-UIDs of beacons located throughout the venue to give users a representation of their location within the context of the museum. Let’s say that you own a Starbucks and want to provide customers with promotions while they’re there. You can do that as well with Eddystone-UID.
Eddystone-EID can be used for a secure exchange of information. In a “car key locator” case, your keys could start beeping as your mobile device approaches it. Another use case that is already being explored is a suitcase locator. Beacons transmitting Eddystone-EID are installed in suitcases and only capable of being unlocked within proximity of the owner’s device.
Eddystone-TLM is a useful for companies or individuals who deploy large numbers of beacons to help them monitor their beacons’ stats. Beacon companies, like BeaconGrid, provide a dashboard that allows you to manage all your beacons at once.
You can use Eddystone-URL to send all kinds of websites to your clients. Sites can be linked to promotions and deals used in proximity marketing or even apps that users can download for more functionality. According to a recent study by google, a study found that 84% of smartphone shoppers use their devices to help them shop in stores, which means there is a large audience who may find relevant URLs useful.
BeaconGrid provides a platform for using Eddystone
BeaconGrid is a certified Eddystone provider, in addition to a provider of iBeacon and AltBeacon. Its sensors, which come in outlets or plugs, are capable of both broadcasting Eddystone signals and receiving signals that can be sent over WiFi to a cloud service. This two-way exchange has benefits. Let’s say you are using BeaconGrid for real-time locational services (RTLS). You can use the sensors to help clients determine not only their location in context but the location of other devices, clients or assets in the beacon-monitored area. This feature would use Eddystone-UID, Eddystone-EID or iBeacon.
The variety of Eddystone frame types mean that you can also use your beacons to broadcast links tailored to the physical environment and telemetry data to aid in fleet management. BeaconGrid provides you with a dashboard where you can see the performance of all your beacons and manage them easily.