Google Nearby will reportedly let your phone tell when it’s close to other devices

June 7, 2014
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Google is reportedly working on a feature that would allow Android devices to make their presence known and detect when they are in the proximity of other “people, places, and things”.

Discovered by the folks at Android Police, the feature will reportedly be called Nearby and be part of a future Play Services update, and therefore available to all users without requiring an OS update.

Nearby will be part of the Location settings on Android devices, just like Google Location Reporting. Here’s the text that will greet users when turning the feature on:

Nearby lets you connect, share, and do more with people, places, and things near you. When Nearby is turned on for your account, Google can periodically turn on the mic, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and similar features on all your current and future devices. Google+ and other Google services need this access to help you connect, share, and more. When you turn on Nearby, you're also turning on Location History for your account and Location Reporting for this device. Google needs these services to periodically store your location data for use by Nearby, other Google services, and more.

When turned on, Nearby will periodically switch on your mic, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and presumably GPS and other sensors, in order to infer if other devices are nearby. Presumably, users will have control over what devices get to see their presence, and the feature can be turned off completely.

While this feature looks similar to location tracking services like Foursquare and Google’s defunct Latitude, it’s more than that, as it’s completely automatic and it runs in the background. Moreover, being part of Play Services means that other apps could tap into Nearby data for various purposes.

Nearby could be a preparation for the Internet of Things era – your device could automatically detect the presence of not only smartphones and computers, but also of thermostats, smartwatches, smart home systems, cars, and so on. All without con

It’s not clear from Android Police’s report when will Nearby roll out, but with Google I/O 2014 just around the corner, it’s possible we’ll see a substantial Play Services update announced on stage, with Nearby as a tent-pole feature.

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