DIY Eddystone Beacon Settings -Beyond the URL

How successful would I be at getting your attention by blowing a dog whistle? Not very unless you were already aware of me. The Physical Web has much the same problem. Bluetooth LE (BLE) radio broadcasts are “there”, but invisible unless you possess the tools to receive them, the dog-ears if you will. When Apple introduced the iBeacon in 2013 the idea was that a custom app would recognize a given beacon’s ID and present content to the device holder. A beacon in this environment, with user permission at time of install, could wake up an app to deliver content. But app development can be prohibitively expensive for many otherwise interested parties, and with so many apps available, offering device real estate to any given option can be a hard sell. So, when Google introduced the Eddystone-URL protocol, requiring initially just one app for any available content, it generated considerable excitement.

Eddystone-URL enables a beacon to broadcast a simple web address or URL. The promise is that a variety of mobile browsers will enable detection of the broadcast and display the address. Chrome for iOS can do it now. Opera for Android makes the same claim. The Physical Web app does it for Android and in early 2016 Chrome for Android mobile will offer the feature. As big as that is, the even bigger news is that it will beep discreetly just once when it becomes aware of content nearby. No need for dog-ears. You can ignore it but at least you will know there’s content available.

The DIY Piece

This development allows for a near future where we can “surf” reality, where the digital and physical realms connect. What excited me when this opportunity began to sink in is that almost anyone could participate. For example, I could create a web page to sell something, like my car or my guitar. I could edit my beacon’s settings to broadcast the address of that web page. I could put that beacon in my car and advertise to anyone walking near, provided that they meet the specs – a Bluetooth LE receiver (like a Smartphone) with Bluetooth enabled and the desire to look.

I needed proof of concept and with beacon purchases, a few dead ends and hours of reading I got it. Around my keyboard as I write this are five Eddystone-compliant beacons, each broadcasting a different URL. When I pull down the notification screen on my Android phone I see a notice that there are beacons nearby. If I click that notice I will usually see between two and four lines that resemble search results, each of them clickable. Why I don’t see five every time is a function of settings and battery conservation, of which I will say more a bit later in the piece. When I do see all five here’s what it looks like:
I chose common sites, mostly with short URLs because there is a character limit. If you need to, you may use a URL shortener like or

How you edit beacon settings to change a URL differs with devices and apps. I use an app from Sensoro, the manufacturer of my five Eddystone units. Of the five, three came in a kit whose maker purchased the beacons from Sensoro. Two I purchased direct from Sensoro. Their app allows me to edit settings on those beacons but when I try to use it on the kit beacons I’m asked for a password I don’t have. That is a security feature that prevents someone with the app from editing settings on another owner’s beacons. To edit the kit beacons I need to use the kit maker’s app.




In the example above I’ve picked a popular website for the URL broadcast. Were I to create my own web content, I could revise it at any time without changing the URL. That would go a long way to addressing the management issue, assuming I was satisfied with initial settings for advertising interval and signal strength. If I wanted to have regular access to those and other settings the cloud platform is more practical.

Look at the centre panel. Here I can select how often per second I want the beacon to broadcast its advertising packet, in this case the URL I’ve chosen. The more often it broadcasts the more likely the receiving browser or app will be listening just then. The penalty is shortened battery life, the same reason that the listening side isn’t listening without pause. Mobile devices run on battery power too and the harder they work the sooner they need a charge. But if you own a coffee shop and your beacon is offering a free donut to passers-by you want to reach as many as possible, and that means broadcasting as near-continuously as possible.

I am on the road to learning to speak beacon. I look forward to meeting you along the way.

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