iBeacon & Eddystone Beacon Technology Explained

Beacon technology enables mobile devices to react to the physical world. iBeacon and Eddystone Beacons, the two leaders in beacon technology, both serve as a valuable tool for companies to interact with their audience based on their precise location—whether at an event, walking through a shopping mall, or a host of other scenarios. The benefits and potential uses of real-time engagement via beacons are endless.

Continue reading to learn more about the differences between iBeacon and Eddystone beacons, as well as how both technologies are changing the dynamics of engagement with content consumers on mobile devices.

How do Beacons Work?

Beacon technology enables mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to constantly scan for Bluetooth devices nearby using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). The beacon itself, which is a small device easily attached to a wall or placed on a table, takes advantage of BLE and its energy efficiency to constantly transmit data in the form of messages or prompts to nearby mobile devices. Bluetooth Low Energy, as the name suggests, consumes less power than traditional Bluetooth devices and essentially enables companies to broadcast information around the clock to potential customers, event attendees, and anyone else in the vicinity.

What is iBeacon?

iBeacon, a proprietary technology for Apple, launched in 2013 and is a built-in feature of iOS 7 and later versions of the operating system for iPhones and iPads. While the technology is only native to iOS devices, Android smartphones and tablets may also leverage the same protocol. A big takeaway from iBeacons is their reliance on mobile apps; for most cases, a user would need a specific mobile app installed to interact with broadcasted information.

How are Eddystone Beacons Different?

Eddystone is an open-source, cross-platform Google-developed beacon compatible with Android, iOS, and any other platforms supporting BLE beacons. Released in 2015, the technology can open URLs in a web browser and doesn’t require a specific mobile app. This difference might not be important for companies with a dedicated and popular mobile app but does show the two technologies have key differences worth investigating based on specific needs and where audiences are most likely to consume content.

Using Beacon Technology

Beacons enable brands to engage in proximity marketing in a variety of creative ways. From triggering a simple welcome message for people passing your storefront to prompting attendees to watch a video right as they near your demonstration booth, the ability to interact with audiences based on their location takes older messaging concepts like push alerts and increases the personalization and relevancy of communication. Imagine enticing your audience with an exclusive perk or promo code right when they’re best able to engage in your brand; the ability to both gain and retain customers—or simply share timely information—is greatly boosted by beacon technology.

Popularity of iBeacon versus Eddystone

Eddystone, the relative newcomer to beacon technology, has experienced a surge in popularity—buoyed in no small part by tight integration with Google favorites like Chrome and Google Maps. Reports from 2016 indicate the popularity of Eddystone popularity grew from zero to fifty percent in its first year and is likely outpacing iBeacon usage in 2017. Along with its open source framework, integrations, and accessibility, the fact Android devices lead the market share race over Apple doesn’t hurt the popularity of Eddystone. Many experts believe companies entrenched in iBeacon technology—an older, more established option—need not change, but newer entrants considering the use of beacons should highly consider Eddystone as the more viable and future-proof option.

The Future of Beacon Technology

As beacon leaders like Eddystone continue to integrate with ever-present software like Google Maps, the ability for a user’s mobile device to react to the physical world and create an immersive experience will only increase over time.

Added security and the launch of new features helps, too, and sets beacon technology up to be a mainstay for dynamically interacting with audiences in a similar fashion to virtual and augmented reality. The sheer popularity of mobile devices means mobile apps and web browsers are always within reach of your content consumers; technology to leverage this fact for better engagement is a win-win for everyone involved.


*Picture by Jonathan Nalder from Kilcoy, Australia (beacons by jnxyz.education) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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