How will we interact with the world around us?


Do you also sometimes feel the need to get more info from a physical object, such as knowing where the nearest cinema is from the movie on the poster you just spotted at the bus stop? Or know a bit more about that historic buiding you’re in front of? Sometimes you see a QR-code present and you need to look in your phone to find that scanner app if you even have it. Well Google is developing a new standard for the way we will interact with the world around us (the internet of things) using the physical web.

How does it work?
The physical web is a new approach for smartphones to interact with objects on demand while not having to download an app first. Through the use of a Bluetooth low energy beacon, a physical object is able to send a URL once every second. Such a small device can maintain power for five years on a single charge. Once you get your phone out of your pocket, you can see what Bluetooth devices are nearby trough the Bluetooth scanner (off course the user has to give permission). If your scanner picks up something, the most relevant links to webpages are displayed, the same as if you search for something on Google. Once you click on the link you will be redirected to the webpage.

Why URLs?
URLs are the most understood, flexible and accepted form to visit a webpage. These links can send you to a website, a specific webpage or even deep link into a native application on your phone.

An example
You as a user walk up to a parking meter in order to pay for your car. You get your smartphone out of your pocket and scan your surroundings for nearby devices. You click on the parking meter and are redirected to a webpage. Through the use of an internet socket you are connected to the specific parking meter. On the webpage you select the preferred time, and you click on pay and you’re on your way.

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The physical web standard of Google is only used for making the initial connection from the device to your smartphone. Once you as a user click on the transmitted link the rest is handled in the cloud through the website.

Other examples:

  • A cat collar that lets you find and call the owner.
  • A bus can tell you when its next stop is.
  • Equipment that lets you find the manual.
  • Movie poster that tells you when the next screening is at the cinema.
  • And many more.
  • Vending machines that let you choose a product and pay, instead of needing NFC or other types of payment.
  • A table at a restaurant that lets you order drinks though your phone.

Final thoughts
As the internet of things is becoming bigger and bigger, new standards have to be developed to let the users communicate with these devices easier. I think Google’s physical web standard is doing a good job in making these connections as easy as possible. To be successful in my opinion such functionality will have to be implemented standard in every smartphone operating system to reach a large user base. Do you think this is the way we will connect with our surroundings?

References:
https://google.github.io/physical-web/

http://postscapes.com/googles-physical-web-suggests-urls-not-apps-are-the-future-of-the-internet-of-things

http://radar.oreilly.com/2015/04/googles-physical-web-vs-apples-ibeacon.html

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