Report: Google Nearby to Bring Android Next-Level Contextual Awareness

AndroidPolice got an exclusive look at an alleged new feature that's said be coming soon to Android devices: Google Nearby, a next-level contextual awareness suite that would give Google-powered devices an even deeper understanding of where you are and what you're doing, no user interaction required.

While it's not confirmed, AndroidPolice's Liam Spradlin says he's confident enough in his source to say this leak is not just some flimsy rumor. The report even has text directly from Nearby's onboarding screen:

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.

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.

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. For context, Apple's recently-introduced Continuity feature offers just that sort of automatic, proximity-based device interaction.

And then there's the potential for home automation: AndroidPolice offers the example of being able to say "Okay Google, open the garage door." With Nearby enabled, your phone would listen for that command when you pulled in your driveway, but not when you're three states away on a trip.

Of course, users would control the individual settings, choosing to be visible or invisible to certain apps, programs, and even other users (i.e., "don't let Eric see when I'm nearby so he doesn't pester me about that $15").

This is all still conjecture, of course. But AndroidPolice has a strong track record when it comes to predicting future Android features. And this one sounds very cool, largely feasible, and maybe just a little bit terrifying from a privacy perspective. All we can do, really, is wait and see if it materializes. [AndroidPolice]

Screenshots via AndroidPolice.