Google has an interesting initiative called the Physical Web, which aims to enable any device to broadcast a specific URI (e.g. website) that users can detect with their cellphone/tablet and navigate to. The aim is to provide a standard, light-weight ‘window’ into any networked device.
The concept is similar to Apple’s iBeacon, in that a specially formatted Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) advertising packet is sent out from a radio to anyone in the radio range, and a listening app on the mobile phone that can pick the packets up and alert users. To demo, we’ll be using the official Physical Web apps available for Android and iOS.
Instead of advertising 128-bit UUIDs like iBeacon, Google defines an (open!) standard they call UriBeacon which advertises URIs, typically a shortened web address.
The primary use case is enabling any device to advertise a web-address where users can interact with the object, or where further information about the device can be found.
A vending machine might redirect you to a payment system, for example, or a sensor node might redirect you to the web interface where the sensor data and it’s history can be searched and navigated.
How Does it Work?
You simply need to tell the BLE Friend what URI you want it to advertise. To do that, we’ll create a specially formatted advertising packet that contains your short (or shortened) URI, and tell the Bluefruit LE Friend to advertise with that packet instead of the default data.