Physical Web

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The Physical Web is a concept for expanding the World Wide Web into physical environments. The Physical Web is essentially a discovery service for nearby URLs in physical proximity of a given device.

"In the Physical Web, people, places, and things have webpages to provide information and mechanisms for user interaction. The notion of open Web technologies as the bridge to the physical is not new: access points, routers, solar panels, electricity meters, and coffee shops have Web landing pages, for example. However, it is the breadth and depth of the stack surrounding the Web that makes this an appealing vision for the IoT’s evolution."[1] Small devices (typically Bluetooth low energy beacon-s) broadcast highly location or object-relevant URLs that any nearby device (like a smartphone) can receive. Typically objects with such URLs can be discovered by nearby devices (from about 2 feet to 1000 feet) capable of receiving such signals.


The history of the World Wide Web shows the potential of the open standard of content creation and a benefit of contextual links. As the available content has grown the question of relevance become crucial. Today the importance of search and ranking on the world wide web í is obvious. It has impacted all of our personal browsing experiences and consequently on businesses using the Web.

Most of the content can easily be reached with the help of search engines on the Web, but with the mobile phone becoming the primary device to browse the web.[2] The differing habits of smartphone users form new requirements especially towards accessing content and interaction for nearby places and objects.

The primary starting point of the Physical Web is that although the web makes browsing and search very easy regardless of the physical location of the content, discovering content that is relevant in the space and time is actually very difficult on mobile in general. This shift has primarily occurred as more and more of the content of the Internet was consumed on mobile devices as opposed to PCs.

For example paying for parking on a smartphone could be a very easy way to handle the transaction but current information and communication channels on mobile present the user with a great deal of friction: either a mobile application has to be downloaded on the user’s device or a QR code has to be scanned or even worse a URL has to be identified by a user and has to be typed into a mobile browser.

The Physical Web’s primary objective is to offer access to nearby URLs.

That is the core vision of the Physical Web. It is a seamless and easy way of access the Internet of Things. "Walk Up and Use Anything"[3] The perspectives of Physical Web have been detectable for years. The Beacon Intelligence Blog:[4] mentioned 4 massive advantages of The Physical Web in 2015.

The Physical Web Project[edit]

Google started an open source project for implementing the detection and presentation of nearby URLs. The Physical Web Project contains the open standard for the device broadcasting URL called “Eddystone” and the coding for offering nearby links to user.[5]

Recently the detection of nearby URLs became part of Google Play Services. (see: Interview with Google’s Project Lead for The Physical Web, Scott Jenson)[6]

Google defines the Physical Web as “an effort to extend the superpower of the web - the URL - to everyday physical objects. Our premise is that you should be able to walk up to any “smart” physical object (e.g. a vending machine, a poster, a toy, a bus stop or a rental car) and interact with it without first downloading an app. The user experience of smart objects should be much like links in a web browser, just tap and use. “ “The Physical Web is an open approach to enable quick and seamless interactions with physical objects and locations.”[7]

IoT (Internet of things) and the Physical Web[edit]

Physical Web concept opens new perspectives for IoT. Most of the existing IoT solutions presuppose exclusive, specific, installable application to connect and control the devices. As the implementation of the Web extends the control over the sensors and communication features of the client device (for example access to BlueTooth radio[8][9]) the Physical Web offers a new and easy way to build flexible IoT solutions. This way the overlap between IoT and Physical Web getting wider. A broader approach for the Physical Web[10] includes beacon-based solutions using a combination of the web and mobile application technologies, sometimes connected to a term of IoT even though The Physical Web strictly speaking does not entail IoT by definition.

Application examples[edit]

Physical Web can be used in many fields. It is possible to virtually bind the manual and local dynamic maintenance offers to your washing machine, or it can be a technology to build a large-scale solution for Smart Cities.[11] It can be used for marketing purposes[12] or some interesting examples of strict or broader approaches of the Physical Web.[13]

  • Beeem: A flexible, robust, easy to use content & interaction service for the physical web [Beeem]
  • London Buses: real-time transport info and relevant advertising [Proxama & Google]
  • Blinks: Engaging location-based content [Blinks]


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  1. ^ Want, Roy; Schilit, Bill N; Jenson, Scott. "Enabling the Internet of Things" (PDF). IEEE Computer. 48 (1): 28–35. doi:10.1109/MC.2015.12. 
  2. ^ "Global Predictions 2017" (PDF). Deloitte. 2017. p. 36. Retrieved 2017-05-09. 
  3. ^ Woolley, Martin (2016-02-26). "Bluetooth Technology And The Physical Web". Retrieved 2017-05-10. 
  4. ^ "Beacon Intelligence Blog". Retrieved 21 February 2017. 
  5. ^ "Google Physical Web Github project". Retrieved 21 February 2017. 
  6. ^ "Interview with Scott Jenson". Retrieved 21 February 2017. 
  7. ^ "Google Physical Web Github project". Retrieved 21 February 2017. 
  8. ^ "Web Bluetooth - Draft Community Group Report, 24 April 2017". Web Bluetooth Community Group. 2017-04-24. Retrieved 2017-05-10. 
  9. ^ "web-bluetooth - implementation status". 2017-04-24. Retrieved 2017-05-10. 
  10. ^ "Techradar: The physical web". Retrieved 21 February 2017. 
  11. ^ Namiot, Dmitry; Sneps-Sneppe, Manfred (2015). "The Physical Web in Smart Cities". Retrieved 2017-05-10. 
  12. ^ Rampton, John (2015-08-13). "How The Physical Web Will Change Local Marketing Forever". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-05-10. 
  13. ^ "BeaconZone Solutions Directory". Retrieved 21 February 2017.