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Chris Meier

Software Developer and Co-founder of FoodChain

Ephemeral URL: Adding Context to Your Eddystone Beacons

Eddystone beacons provide a powerful tool that allows businesses to reach their customers in new ways. Restaurant owners can broadcast coupons to attract new patrons. For example, an ice cream parlor can give a 20% coupon when it is raining outside. When it stops raining, the coupon expires. This setup requires both time and proximity dimensions. So how do you add this kind of context to your Eddystone-URL? By using Ephemeral URLs.

Lucky for us, someone has already written a tool to create Ephemeral URLs. It is a URL shortner called URI I/O.This allows you to add proximity context, time context, or both to your Physical Web applications. URI I/O works by passing an encrypted key to your server. If it decoded properly, then you can be sure the user was near the beacon when accessing the URL. You can also set URLs to expire after a certain amount of time using a timestamp check. If you are issuing coupons for one hour only, you can ensure that no one will be able to get that coupon except during that one hour. So even if someone discovers the URL away from the beacon (which is unlikely since the shortened URLs are unguessable), the encrypted key guarantees that the person won’t be able to access its content. However, once a user discovers the URL, they can access it anywhere.

One cool feature is the ability to have a dynamic URL target. A beacon can can broadcast a non-ephemeral URL and you can just change the redirect. This make managing beacons a lot easier. If you are broadcasting from many beacons, you don’t have to go through the process of generating ephemeral URLs and then changing the beacons from an app one by one. Just have them broadcast a URL and change the redirect from the web. Very simple. This works because when the short URL is detected, it is resolved by the Physical Web crawler. So no matter what the non-ephemeral URL is changed to the user will be redirected to the target URL. UriI/O has placed a limit on the number of issued URLs at 50, which is great news if you have multiple locations.

UriI/O is a great tool to assist with using beacons for your small business. You can take advantage of foot traffic and draw customers into your business. Ephemeral URLs ensure that those that access the content are at your store during a certain time. Giving customers special deals has never been so easy which will pay off with higher conversion rates.