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What if every physical object could push out an interactive web link? That, essentially, is the idea behind the ‘Physical Web’, a new open source approach to beacon tech from Google. It’s an approach that could dramatically change the way we do our jobs.

For those unfamiliar with the tech, a beacon is a small device that acts as a digital lighthouse, emitting a location ID from the ceiling or wall of a store.

There’s a big problem with the tech available at the moment: the user generally needs an app that supports that store’s beacon. It could be a custom app, or a supported app that several stores use.

But how many customers are willing to install an unknown app? Not many. Google’s solution? The browser.

The company has always favoured the mobile web over dedicated apps, perhaps because apps are the realm of its mobile arch-nemesis, Apple, and its iOS platform.

Fortunately, the browser does more than just take care of the issue. It allows a location or physical object that sports a compatible beacon to broadcast a web address.

A URL from a nearby restaurant, for instance, could lead to a web page with the menu. You could even leave your name for a table and receive a notification when it’s ready. A film poster becomes a portal to trailers from that movie. You can pluck a map out of thin air, and a cat’s collar can display its owner’s information with ease.

Here’s Scott Jenson’s introduction to the new approach:

Google uses the term ‘physical web’ to describe this new connection between the physical world and the web – a web that is embedded in physical objects. If it catches on, web-based marketing will undoubtedly become more about how the physical world reveals itself to us.

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