There’s been lots of chatter about the interplay of digital signage and Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons, so it’s interesting to read that signage networks running on Chromeboxes will soon be able to use the players as the beacons, via Google’s emerging Eddystone protocol.
That set-up enables Chromeboxes to shoot URLs to smartphones with Bluetooth enabled.
Google’s Francois Beaufort notes that the feature is currently available in the Chrome OS Developer Channel for now, so it’s not quite ready for prime time. It is a good time to experiment with beacons though.
To do so on the Developer Channel you either need to have Chrome OS in Kiosk Mode — a way to limit users to your specific app — or enable the feature outside of Kiosk Mode by turning on the chrome://flags/#enable-ble-advertising-in-apps flag in the browser.
Once that’s done, you can start pushing URLs to nearby smartphones and tablets using the Eddystone-URL method, which supports four different URL prefixes including two for secure sites. Your app can also control the Bluetooth radio TX power level, which lets you focus the beacon information on a specific range.
Google has already created a demo beacon application for testing if you don’t want to enable your own app.
Since nearly every recent Chromebook and Chromebox I can think of has a Bluetooth radio inside it, the potential to turn each of these in to a Bluetooth LE beacon is clever. Retailers are using low-cost Chrome OS devices for specific purposes such as powering signs, taking reservations, showing menus and more.
So … as this goes mainstream, you would have cloud-controlled and managed beacons that can be updated remotely and don’t have issues with dying batteries, as is the case with standalone beacons you stick on walls. These device-driven beacons can fire off URL-based marketing or information message that would just appear on phones as a notification, as opposed to beacons that need to talk to downloaded and enabled smartphone apps.
Of course, if the notifications are just spam, or seen as spam, one touch and the user turns off Bluetooth.
But the opportunity to tie a smartphone message to a screen, and also double up use of the signage player as a beacon, is interesting.
Retailers or other businesses that use iPads as information displays have already had beacon transmitters built in, but that set-up would be tied to beacon and business-specific apps.