Google is apparently working on a service that will allow you to interact with the Internet of Things and other devices, without faffing about with authentication – which could be the company’s response to both Apple’s “Continuity” philosophy as well as iBeacon.
Android Police has uncovered the new feature – said to be called “Android Nearby”. Apparently this is how the Nearby app describes it:
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.
In addition – using Nearby will also require Location History and Location Reporting to be switched on.
What this means in practice is that we could start seeing your phone picking up on devices it can interact with… nearby. For example – if your phone figures out that it is near your computer, then it could unlock it for you, or if you’re nearby a friend perhaps you could send them files easily – without having to use wifi or login to anywhere (a bit like Apple’s Airdrop)?
The other implication is that it could lead to “iBeacon” style services. iBeacon is Apple’s plan to enable shops and public spaces to place small bluetooth “beacons” around their buildings, enabling the retrieval on your phone of better information. For example, iBeacon in an art gallery could tell your phone that it is next to a particular painting, and have more details on the artist appear on your home screen. Of course – the reason for this technology though will be in shops, where you’ll be able to, for example, find a map of the store you’re in or pay using your phone from anywhere in the shop.
It remains to be seen exactly how Google Nearby will work… but if you’re one of those people who are paranoid about Google’s data collection and tracking, it seems now wouldn’t be a good time to remove the tinfoil hat.