Upcoming ‘Nearby’ feature for Android will allow devices to listen for each other


Google is working on a new connectivity feature for Android that would allow users to share and receive information based on their proximity to other devices.

According to information obtained by Android Police, the new toolset will automatically connect users in order to share contact information, receive offers from in store beacons or interact with in-home tech.

“Nearby lets you connect, share, and do more with people, places, and things near you,” Google writes on the on-boarding page for the feature.

That, according to the site will also allow users to set a reminder on their phones for next time they happen to meet a particular person, or go to a particular store.
Listening in

However, as neat as the feature sounds, it wouldn’t be Google without some privacy concerns.

Once Nearby is turned on users are giving their permission for their phone’s microphone to be enabled in order to ‘listen’ for other devices, which will apparently emit sounds inaudible to the human ear. It also grants permission to turn on the device’s Wi-Fi automatically and shares the user’s location history.

With continuing fears over phone tapping and government snooping, many users may be unwilling to sign up for a service that’s always listening in on whatever they’re doing, even if it is to find other devices.

“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,” the company writes.

The site reports this feature, which in many ways is a progression of the Bump app Google purchased in late 2013, may be announced at Google I/O later this month.