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Google Rolls Out Beacon Technology, Confirms Buy Buttons

Google this week announced another step in its quest for world domination: Beacons.

In a move that challenges Apple’s iBeacon technology, Google’s take on location-based marketing is all about accessibility. Dubbed Eddystone (after a British lighthouse, implying that beacons guide users much like a lighthouse leads ship captains at night), the technology offers “a new and open format” for Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons “that anyone can use” to communicate with mobile devices, including both Apple and Android phones.

Apple’s offering, meanwhile, only works with iDevices, thereby cutting out half of the U.S. smartphone market and 80 percent of the worldwide smartphone market.

Beacons, for the uninitiated, are devices that use Bluetooth technology to detect nearby smartphones or tablets and communicate with them, usually by sending promotions, in the hopes of improving the in-store shopping experience. To support this, the company is launching two new APIs (application program interfaces): the Nearby API for Android and iOS that will find and connect with nearby beacon, while the Proximity Beacon API sends information when a user wanders into a specific location.

According to Google, Eddystone will provide “precise location and contextual cues,” making it easier for apps to find and communicate with nearby devices. No app? No problem. Beacons can also broadcast a URL.

In other mobile-related news, the company confirmed on Wednesday that it will soon add “buy” buttons that will allow users to purchase products that pop up in its sponsored shopping ads directly from their smartphones or tablets. Called “Purchases on Google,” the feature will initially launch with about a dozen retailers before rolling out to more U.S. advertisers.