Google's Prototype: How Mobile Search Changes Ranking When Left To The Machine

Google is behind an early prototype project that will link mobile devices like smartphones with vending machines, cars or any piece of hardware that can connect to the Internet.

The working group, Physical Web, wants the technology to work in the background in an operating system so people don't need to use it actively, but for now they're building an app that "tries to not feel like an app." It would silently monitor beacons that the user could browse when interested.

"The Physical Web isn't about replacing native apps: it's about enabling interaction when native apps just aren't practical," per the project's organizers. And while the post doesn't describe the Thread Networking standard as part of the project, consider it tying up any loose threads in the future.

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Here's how: The site of the Physical Webdescribes how the technology changes search rank. "Today, we are perfectly happy typing 'tennis' into a search engine and getting millions of results back, [because] we trust that the first 10 are the best ones," per the description. "The same applies here. The phone agent can sort by both signal strength as well as personal preference and history, among many other possible factors."

The group doesn't want to minimize this task. It acknowledges the work required, but also feels that this simple signal strength ranking can take the project far for the first few versions.

A Bluetooth beacon app installed on Android and iOS phones would automatically scan for nearby smart devices, and give users the option to interact or share data with them. The electronics industry tried something similar with radio frequency identification (RFID) and near field communication (NFC) technologies, but it never really caught on.

Here's how this differs: the Physical Web technology aims to standardize how machines talk to machines. Familiarity breeds use. Parking meters and vending machines would all work the same way. Any physical store could offer an online experience in the store. A bus stop tells you the next bus arrival. These are some of the "practical" applications for the technology.

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