With Bluetooth and Location on, Android users discover opportunities to interact with places and things around them. Nearby Notifications, a new feature in modern Android devices, lets users see Eddystone-URL (Physical Web) broadcasts from secured websites for devices running Android 4.4+ and Google Play Services 9.2.55+.

Notifications automatically activate once a device encounters a beacon configured for Eddystone, the open beacon format from Google. Older Android devices without Nearby can use Physical Web scanners or Physical Web-enabled browsers like Chrome to see Physical Web beacons.

Nearby Notifications by default

Google’s Scott Jenson, project lead for the Physical Web, said the interaction on Android will be through Nearby by default and on Chrome as a backup. He said the Physical Web is a technology that will be used in many ways.

“There are already other scanners being built (on iOS and Android),” Jenson said, responding to questions in GitHub. “We view the Physical Web a bit like the web: you can use many ‘browsers’ yet still get to the same content. At the moment, the primary browser is Nearby but we expect others to appear over time and that’s a good thing.”

URLs for the Physical Web must be HTTPS to be displayed by Nearby. However, when accessed via platforms like PHY.net, HTTP URLs may still be used.

Google introduced Notifications as part of the Nearby API in June 2016. Physical Web notifications through Nearby started in July.

Nearby runs in the background on Android 4.4+ devices, scanning for nearby beacons configured to the Eddystone UID, EID and URL protocol. Discovering beacons is easy. Simply swipe down from the top of your device to see a list.

What you’ll need to see Physical Web

  • Enable Nearby Notifications: Settings > Google > Nearby Notifications. If it is off, turn it on.
  • Make sure Bluetooth® is on: Settings > Bluetooth.
  • Make sure Location is on: Settings > Location.
  • You must have a data connection. This can be your phone’s data plan, or Wi-Fi.

The first time you encounter an Eddystone beacon your phone will receive a notification that says, “Tap to explore or turn off this feature.” Go ahead and tap the notification to enable Nearby discoveries. On the next screen, you’ll see a list of Nearby signals and a message: To keep getting these notifications, tap “I’m In.”

When you opt in, you’ll start getting low-priority notifications whenever you’re near any Physical Web beacons. To see these notifications, use the same “swipe down” from the top of your screen. This is a passive notification, meaning it won’t make your phone buzz in your pocket, but it will be available when you’re ready to engage.

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