Google announced today that it has begun to support physical beacons in its Chrome browser for Android.
The feature, which has been tested in the iOS app since last summer, is heading to Chrome 49 for Android soon. It enables users to opt in to interact with and receive content from nearby Bluetooth-enabled beacons in public places like shops, sports stadiums, schools, etc.
Support is initially coming to the beta version of Chrome for Android, so it’ll just hit a selection of the app’s total user base at first, but it will roll out to the stable version over time.
Physical beacons offer a different marketing approach for companies that’s only just being realized today. Google’s blog post highlights a number of examples already, including how a school uses beacons to distribute class notes, how beacons were deployed at CES to replace marketing brochures, and how the Golden State Warriors pass highlight videos to fans over the air. That’s really just the surface being scratched right now, and enabling beacon interaction in Chrome for both iOS and Android is a major step toward opening future opportunities.
Beacons are likely to be a hot topic in 2016, and there are a number of tech companies pioneering the concept with hardware and software. Estimote, the company rumored to be working with retail giant Target, recently closed a $10.7 million Series A round, while there’s SoftBank-backed Swirl Networks, which raised an $18 million Series C last year, and Gimbal, a beacon company that was spun out of tech giant Qualcomm in 2014, in the mix, too.
That’s quite all from Google today, though. Furthering its push into connecting the physical and online worlds, Google has created an Internet of Things Technology Research Award Pilot.
Citing difficulties around interoperability, user privacy, and managing interaction, Google said it is inviting university researchers to participate in the pilot via four to eight week experiments. Would-be takers have until the end of February to submit their proposals for inspection. Full details are on the Google Research blog here.