It would appear as though Google is pinging Apple — specifically, attempting to challenge the latter's iBeacon technology.
Yesterday (July 14), the Internet tech giant began releasing a new set of features to help developers build apps that integrate beacon technology. Chief among these new products is Eddystone, an open format for Bluetooth, low-energy (BLE) beacons to communicate with mobile devices.
Described in a post on the Google Developers Blog as "robust and extensible," Eddystone (which takes its name from a lower-tech version of a beacon — a lighthouse) offers a clear differentiator from Apple's more established iBeacon in at least one regard out of the gates: Unlike its competitor, the Google format is platform-agnostic. It supports Android as well as iOS, in addition to "any platform that supports BLE beacons," according to the blog post.
To support what the post describes as "two key developer benefits" of Eddystone — better semantic (latitudinal/longitudinal) context and precise location — Google concurrently released two new APIs: the Nearby API, which makes it easier for apps to find and communicate with nearby devices and beacons, and the Proximity Beacon API, which allows developers to associate semantic location and related data with beacons.
The Google Developer Blog post goes on to tout the specific benefits of Eddystone for a number of areas including beacon manufacturers (the format allows them to support multiple platforms with a single piece of hardware), businesses (which can monitor all of their beacons with the format) and, of course, Google's own products and services (Google Maps operates with beacons, and Google Now — the company's answer to Apple's Siri — is soon to do the same).
Stating that "beacons are an important way to deliver better experiences for users of your apps, whether you choose to use Eddystone with your own products and services or as part of a broader Google solution," the blog post mentions a few beacon manufacturers that are early adapters, as it were, of Eddystone, including Bluvision, Kontakt.io and Signal360.