Build resilient systems at scale
28–30 October 2015 • Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Physical Web is a speed issue

Scott Jenson (Google)
9:35–9:55 Thursday, 29/10/2015
Location: Auditorium
Average rating: ****.
(4.46, 108 ratings)

Prerequisite Knowledge

Basic web technologies. Some knowledge of wireless standards helps.


The Physical Web is an approach to unleash the core superpower of the web: interaction on demand. People should be able to walk up to any smart device – a vending machine, a poster, a toy, a bus stop, a rental car – and not have to download an app first. Everything should be just a tap away.

Why is this important?
The number of smart devices is going to explode, and the assumption that each new device will require its own application just isn’t realistic. We need a system that lets anyone interact with any device at any time. The Physical Web isn’t about replacing native apps: it’s about enabling interaction when native apps just aren’t practical.

Why is this open source?
The Physical Web must be an open standard that everyone can use. By creating a common web standard that any device can use to offer interaction, a new range of services becomes possible.

How does this change things?
Once any smart device can have a web address, the entire overhead of an app seems a bit backward. The Physical Web approach unlocks tiny use cases that would never be practical:

  • A cat collar would let you call to find the owner
  • A bus tells you its next stop
  • Parking meters can pay in the cloud using the phone’s internet connection
  • Any store, no matter how small, can offer an online experience when you walk in
  • A ZipCar broadcasts a signup page, allowing you to immediately drive away
  • Industrial equipment can offer diagnostics

Each of these examples, taken by itself, is modestly useful. Taken as a whole, however, they imply a vast “long tail” where anything can offer information and utility.

So many people ask what is the ‘killer app’ for the Physical Web. That’s a bit like asking what is the killer app for the web itself. When any place and object can offer a web page for help, information, configuration, or use, we’ll unlock millions of things, rather than a single killer product.

To learn more, visit the project on GitHub.

Photo of Scott Jenson

Scott Jenson


Scott Jenson worked on the Newton at Apple, multiple phone UIs at Symbian, the mobile Maps app at Google, and was a creative director at frog design. He has been writing/speaking about smart devices for many years.

Comments on this page are now closed.


Picture of Scott Jenson
Scott Jenson
27/09/2015 8:38 CEST

Happy to answer questions if anyone posts something before the conference.