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Bluetooth devices and the web

Web browsers that can now support Bluetooth. What does this mean?

So you may have read that Chrome 53 is in its early stages of supporting web Bluetooth which means that you can connect to a Bluetooth device through a website, without needing an app. What does this mean?

Well. Right now you have to connect to a bluetooth device using an app made specifically for that device. So for instance you might have a light bulb, a thermostat and a coffee maker that are all Bluetooth devices in your house. You would then need a separate app for each one of those devices to control each one. That’s like three separate apps on your phone! With Web Bluetooth you can go to the devices URL, like a website, then connect and control that device there. Since this is a website all you need is the browser. It doesn’t matter if it’s through your phone, tablet, desktop or running iOS, Android, Windows or Linux. So you’re able to control a whole host of devices through the cloud.

Sounds like a big deal. Let’s dive a little deeper.

The Physical Web.

Let’s talk about the physical web real quick and how this plays a big hand in the web Bluetooth deal. The physical web allows you to see URL’s that are being broadcast by objects around you. These objects or devices are embedded with a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon.

Let’s say for instance one of these devices is a dog collar on a lost dog. The collar is broadcasting a URL that is then getting picked up by Google Chrome on a device. People who discover the URL can then see if the dog is lost and take action if needed.

So how would Web Bluetooth work with the Physical Web?

A Bluetooth Low Energy toy that broadcasts a URL will allow you to connect to the toy through a web page so that you can then control it.

Check out the video above.

Here’s another video with children’s toy.

And it also could work with a parking meter. Setting you free from having to have quarters available!

Web Bluetooth and Security.

So what’s the downside? Well – this is still in its early stages so you can only imagine the security issues that this can pose. Imagine someone taking control of your light bulbs while you’re watching poltergeist with the kids cause they think that’s fun.

Nope. No thanks.

Thankfully browsers like chrome are building in precautions.

Still, Lukasz Olejnik, an independent computer privacy and security researcher based in London is concerned.

“Can we realistically assume that average users will be able to understand the qualitative difference between pairing two local devices and pairing a local device with a remote web server?”

The API poses the same risks as two innovations that have already proven prone to abuse, cloud computing and the “Internet of Things”, but the data involved in this case is even more personal, Olejnik said. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Gregory Yanez

With a degree in interactive media and computer science, Greg’s a technological wizard who does more than get his ratio of salsa to guacamole right…he knows how to build a gorgeous website with a CMS so clean it’ll bring tears to your eyes.