Eddystone-URL and Physical Web: All You Need to Know


You already know that Estimote Beacons broadcast short identifiers over Bluetooth and phones in the range can read them. If there's an app installed on the phone and it knows what do in the range of a specific beacon, it will prompt an action. Eddystone-URL works the same, except beacons broadcast a short URL instead of the identifier, and the app is a web browser that can display nearby URLs to users. This technology is called Physical Weband it's developed by Google.

Below, you will learn:

  • how does it work
  • what you need to get started
  • how to set it up
  • what your URL should look like.

How does it work?

Estimote Beacon broadcasts an Eddystone-URL packet with a link you've set up. Smartphone in the range "hears the packet" and a Physical-Web compatible browser detects and displays the link. When you are in the range of the beacon the link will be displayed in your smartphone's notification centre. The awesome part about this is that you don't need to build an app! It's built into Chrome on Android.

Another good thing about Eddystone-URL and Physical Web is that it won't bombard the user with a notification every time they're in range of a beacon. You don't want to spam users and make them disable Bluetooth or Physical Web. Instead, it provides subtle suggestions in form of low-priority notifications that don't buzz the phone on Android.

 What you need to get started

  •  Beacons: all Estimote Beacons along with Estimote Stickers support Eddystone-URL.
  •  Mobile device with Bluetooth Low Energy support.
  •  Physical Web compatible browser installed on the mobile device.

Setting up

1. Enable Eddystone-URL packet on the Estimote Beacon

  • Open the Estimote app and log in 
  • Go to "Configurations"
  • Connect to the beacon by tapping on it in the Radar or List view.
  • Scroll down the list of a beacon's details to enable the packet of your choice

You can also do it via Estimote Cloud. Pick a beacon, click "Edit Settings", and go to the preferred packet on the sidebar to the left to enable it. Connect to the beacon in the app to apply the change.

2. Download a browser

Browsers you can currently use with Eddystone-URL include:

We recommend going with Chrome: it's installed on Android devices by default.

3. Enable Physical Web in the browser

It shouldn't take long! We've described the whole process here: Eddystone-URL: how to enable Physical Web in Chrome?

We recommend Setting up the Physical Web in Chrome from Google, it will walk you through the process in details for both platforms.

4. Broadcast your own link

Now you can set up your own link. You can do it in the Estimote app the same way you've enabled the packet. Tap on the packet, type the URL you want to broadcast, and you are good to go! You can do it via the Estimote Cloud and in that case, make sure you apply the change by connecting to your beacon with Estimote app afterwards. Your link should meet several requirements to be saved and, later, displayed. More on that below.

URL: what should the link look like?

With Physical Web, the format of the URL matters. Make sure you link is:

Not too long
Eddystone protocol provides 17 bytes for the URL packet.  Most of the times, you'd need a URL shortener.

URLs must be public. If the page is not accessible from the Internet (e.g. it requires authentication or is only accessible from an internal network), it will not appear in the list of results.

All URLs must resolve to an HTTPS URL. Google requires all Physical Web pages be served over HTTPS due to security considerations. You may use a URL shortener that generates HTTP URLs as long as the shortened URL resolves to an HTTPS URL. 

Finally, you can use Physical Web URL Validator to verify your link.


Please note that Google has removed Physical Web support from Chrome on iOS, here's their comment on it. Google has also moved Physical Web on Android from Chrome to Google Play Services & Nearby Notifications. While we don't have any certain information, this move could be indicating that Physical Web support will be also removed from Chrome eventually.


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