The Internet has fundamentally changed our lives on so many levels – how we work, how we shop, our social interactions, and the world of business and education . . . to name a few. One would be hard pressed today to find an area not somehow touched by the World Wide Web. But if you’ve been following the latest in the world of emerging and disruptive tech, you know that the Internet is undergoing a major transformation. Call it the “semantic web” or Web 3.0 or what have you, the Internet is in the process of becoming more embedded into the everyday processes of our lives.
Pew Research Center’s report Digital Life in 2025 last spring basically said as much, the central premise being that “information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity, often through machine intermediaries.”
In order to give us a preview of where the Internet is heading, Google kicked off its Physical Web project this past fall. Here, the technology giant wants us to envision a future of wireless URLs as the bundle for information sharing. According to the GitHub page on this topic, the URL is the fundamental building block of the web, giving remarkable flexibility of expression. It can be:
There is something to be said about this idea. In fact, using URLs to create a world of quick and efficient wireless connectivity could be revolutionary on many levels, not to mention making the mobile app as we know it archaic.
Some of the ideas here may seem rather abstract without proper context. Therefore, let’s walk through a few points about how the Physical Web might provide some cool prototyping opportunities for those wanting to try out this exploratory research and increase their chances of success in the digital marketplace.
1. Visit and familiarize yourself with the Physical Web GitHub
Google has provided some useful documentation to provide an orientation to the concept of the Physical Web. Visit this page and read the “overview” of what Google is up to, based on the central notion of how “the Physical Web extends the web we know into the physical world around us.” At this stage you’ll want to grasp the concept and get some basic questions answered.
2. Start brainstorming some applications
After some initial familiarity with the Physical Web ecosystem, and a grasp of the basic idea, start to think about your vertical and what kind of application you’d like to build. Think about your customer base and what would serve their needs the most. Here’s a short video clip of prototype demo using the physical web to order a snack from a vending machine. If you’re in retail, imagine offering your customers an online experience when you walk in.
3. Read the technical overview
Between your initial preview of the Physical Web and the brainstorming part, it’s time to consider some technical matters. Here you’ll want to look into the whole notion of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) as a novel new way to provide wireless low power and cost communications. Also, you’ll need to figure out the client-server relations. According to the documentation, “The server receives a request from the client with all of the URLs found and returns a JSON data structure listing all of the meta information listed about.” Become familiar with this ecosystem to set yourself apart from others who are still writing PHP e-commerce websites.
4. Get to know about “beacons”
Beacons have received big buzz in the last year. Simply put, they’re low-power, low cost indoor radio transmitters that can alert other devices of their presence. They can be used for indoor positioning, providing product information, or for opening further customer engagement channels. There are more and more outlets for purchasing beacons in order to start prototyping your ideas.
5. Start experimenting with the code
Google makes it clear that the Physical Web is an early stage experimental project, but the code to make objects interact with Android devices is all open source. Developers can begin to use the code in the GitHub repository to experiment with new opportunities and ideas. Google does declare though that “Eventually, the goal is to have this Physical Web code rolled into each browser.”
6. Align Physical Web strategization with Internet of Things
The Physical Web is closely aligned with the Internet of Things market. The former might be seen as providing a search engine for IoT. Stated slightly differently, the Physical Web can be considered a “search engine for the physical world.” So whatever you end up doing with the Physical Web, just keep IoT closely on your horizon. The release of Apple Watch in the next couple of months; the semantic web, and machine-to-machine (M2M) interactions are all elements that will align closely with IoT and the linking of objects to the internet. The Physical Web is right in the middle of this new and exciting ecosystem, so anything you can do to start prototyping now will give you a competitive advantage later.