Web Standards column: Web Bluetooth
This post was originally published on net magazine.
For the January 2016 issue of net magazine I wrote the Web Standards column on Web Bluetooth (and a little bit about physical web).
Every object around us is getting smart. Plants, suitcases, keys; there is a “Make X smart”-Kickstarter campaign for all of them. And that is just the start. Billions of smart devices are coming to our world in the next years, and that brings a new challenge: how do you discover these devices? And, after discovery, how do you interact with them?
To solve the discoverability problem, we can use the new Bluetooth Smart standard. It’s the low energy variant of normal Bluetooth, which broadcasts ‘advertisement packages’ that your phone can pick up. Advertisement packages in themselves are very boring, they are just bytes, but Google’s Eddystone protocol allows you to embed URLs in them. Now every device can have its own web page, and your web browser can pick up on the signals. Your meeting room can broadcast the URL of its calendar, and a movie poster can broadcast the URL of the schedule of the local cinema. It’s just web, so the opportunities are endless. Google named this approach ‘the Physical Web’, which is pretty spot on. If you want to experiment with this tech, you can buy an Eddystone beacon for around 10 dollars, and get the Physical Web application from your favorite app store. Browser support and OS integration are currently being worked on by Google and Mozilla.
WebBluetooth is currently in Draft status at W3C, and support is coming to (at least) Chrome and Firefox. If you want to play around with it already, the API is supported in Chrome OS 45+ and Firefox OS 2.5+.
To sum it up: The combination of Physical Web and WebBluetooth is going to be amazing. We can solve discoverability of new devices, and interacting with devices without needing to install native apps anymore, bringing the awesomness of the web into the IoT space.