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At it’s heart, the Internet is a physical thing. While we think of invisible streams of data flowing through the airwaves to deliver content to our portable machines, it might feel more like magic than physical infrastructure (and when you imagine the dizzying array of technology and ingenuity it took to make it so, it is magical in a way). But, the Internet really is a series of varying-sized wires connecting a bunch of massive, powerful machine clusters to other machine clusters, on and on, until that web of wires gets to your home and connects to your machine/device cluster. It’s very much a physical thing.

As we move further and further into the future, more and more devices are connected to the Internet. First it was our portable computers (aka laptops), then our mobile phones, to the point that now, washing machines, refrigerators, parking meters, self-driving cars, you name it, are connected to the Internet. Massive advances in wireless technology have allowed us to beam the Internet at super-fast speeds through the air, enabling a new army of interconnected devices. The miniaturization of high-power computing has made those devices incredibly useful beyond simply being connected. But where do we go from here? What’s next?

Google’s physical web interface is making a push to be that very next big thing.

Instead of installing apps for every type of mobile interaction in a physical space, imagine an entire platform that lets connected devices communicate with one another. In Google’s words:

  • Everything is a tap away
    • Walk up and interact with any object — a parking meter, a toy, a poster — or location — a bus stop, a museum, a store — without installing an app first. Interactions are only a tap away.
  • See what’s useful around you
    • See web pages associated with the space around you. Choose the page most useful to you.
  • Any object or place can broadcast content
    • When anything can offer information and utility, the possibilities are endless.
  • How does this work?
    • The Physical Web enables you to see a list of URLs being broadcast by objects in the environment around you. Any object can be embedded with a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon, which is a low powered, battery efficient device that broadcasts content over bluetooth. Beacons that support the Eddystone protocol specification can broadcast URLs. Services on your device such as Google Chrome or Nearby Notifications can scan for and display these URLs after passing them through a proxy.

As a business, this could open untold possibilities for communicating valuable information or services to your customers. As a consumer, this makes physical spaces all the more useful by overlaying a digital interaction platform on top of it. Imagine seeing a movie poster and being able to simply tap your phone against it to get all the relevant information about that movie — nearby showtimes, DVD release date, Rotten Tomatoes reviews, etc. Or, you park your car and simply tap your phone against the parking meter to pay — no app, phone calls, cash or coins required.

No one would argue the future is undoubtedly interconnected. Google is making a strong play to pair that digital connection with physical spaces to make both more efficient and useful to consumers and business alike.

We can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Comments

2 responses to “Google’s physical web and the Internet of the future”

  1. David Valdez says:

    We started exploring Google’s physical web about a year ago and have several pilots in the works. The results have been greater than we expected. On the newer versions, Google has marketed “Physical Web” into Nearby. Our goal is to educate people around the world about physical web and explore endless possibilities.

    • Jeff Francis says:

      Well said, Dave! Our aim is to educate people about physical web and explore the possibilities.

      Thanks for the comment:)

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