Who’s Nearby?

In a world where we are separated by technology, Google is trying to bring us closer together, or at least let us know who’s Nearby.

Google will reportedly let your Android phone tell you when it’s close to other Android devices with Google Nearby or “Nearby” for short.

Discovered by the guys at Android Police, the feature will reportedly be called Nearby.  Nearby may be part of a future Google Play Services update and therefore available to all Android 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.

What’s that mean?  Basically, Android devices with Nearby enabled will know which devices are around them with greater precision than was ever possible before and it wouldn’t require any user interaction aside from the first activation of Nearby.  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, smart watches, smart home systems, cars, and so on.  All without con.

Consider this:  You’re trying to find a group of friends in a crowded bar or restaurant.  Its loud, no one can hear their phones ring or see your text.  Using Nearby you can get an exact fix on a certain phone number or a series of numbers in your contacts.  This capability could be used in a whole slew of ways.  Users could get precisely-targeted wallet offers when they walk into stores, or receive alerts when they’re in the immediate vicinity of other Nearby users (i.e. “reminder:  pay Eric the $15 you owe him).  There’s potential for interaction with a user’s other devices, like automatically unlocking your computer when it senses your phone nearby.  Ever misplaced a device at home?  Nearby could locate the exact position of your lost device.  Those are just a few possibility features of Nearby.

It’s not clear from Android Police’s report when will Nearby roll out, but with Google I/O 2014 just around the corner, starting on June 24th, it’s possible we’ll see a substantial Play Services update announced on stage, with Nearby as a tent-pole feature.

Get excited people.  Google is bring us closer together through Technology.  Search on.
nearby top cover


Onyx Contributor:  David Seven

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