Google launches Physical Web standard

October 3, 2014 | 12:41

Tags: #browser #github #internet-of-things #iot #standard

Companies: #chrome #google #open-source

Google has thrown its hat into the Internet of Things (IoT) ring in a major way with the announcement of Physical Web, a common web standard for smart devices which aims to do away with proprietary applications altogether.

Various market watchers are predicting big things for the Internet of Things, a nebulous term that covers everything from thermostats that can be controlled from a smartphone to health-tracking sensors that can be embedded directly into the human body. Where the current 'Internet' part of the IoT equation falls over is that these products rarely, if ever, communicate between each other: a user needs one proprietary application to control his or her Nike+ running shoes and another to adjust a Nest thermostat.

The Physical Web, then, aims to solve this issue. Sponsored by Google's Chrome division, the project looks to create an open standard for IoT accessibility based - unsurprisingly - around the browser. At its heart, the Physical Web is a discovery service which broadcasts URLs to any receiving devices, allowing users walking past any interactive device - vending machines, posters, bus stops, televisions, even a rental car - to be made aware of its capabilities and given the option to interact with it, without needing to download a dedicated application.

'The number of smart devices is going to explode, both in our homes and in public spaces. Much like the web, there is going to be a 'long tail' of interactivity for smart devices. But the overhead of installing an app for each one just doesn't scale,' Google engineers claimed in their announcement of the project. 'We need a system that lets someone walk up and use a device with just a tap. The Physical web isn't about replacing native apps, it's about allowing interaction for the times when native apps just aren't practical.'

The project is open and permissively licensed, with Google having uploaded its current code for Android to the GitHub code repository.
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