Android phones to secretly talk with ‘people, places & things’

Google ‘Nearby’ is reportedly a new Android feature which will let your phone automatically connect and interact wirelessly not just to other users’ smartphones but to any number of devices, anywhere, without you lifting a finger.

The key point is that processes/devices using this will be entirely automated, you won’t even need to lift your phone from your pocket. According to Android Police, who published allegedly leaked screenshots of the feature, turning on Nearby means you are granting Google access to automatically turn on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and use your microphone to listen to what’s going on around it.

With this information Google can identify location, what’s prompting the contact (and why) and it can interact with these nearby devices on your behalf.

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Take a smart home as an example: as you pull up to your garage in your car, your phone could automatically open the garage door without you having to take any action (or you could simply say “open the garage” and your listening smartphone would pick that up and open it for you. Walk to your front door and have a smart lock automatically open up for you, turn on the lights inside and adjust the thermostat.
Maybe even turn on the TV or fire up your coffee machine when you get out of bed in the morning.

Beyond that there are any number of possibilities, an alert when your phone becomes aware that a good friend is nearby, a limited time offer of 50% off all coffees as you walk past Starbucks etc.

All this happening without you even looking at your screen.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the much-predicted onslaught of wearable tech devices such as Google Glass, Smartwatches etc can only ramp up this silent interaction with the internet of things.

Equally, it hasn’t been officially confirmed yet (though many are looking to Google’s upcoming Developer conference for a potential unveiling) and, most importantly, where does the privacy line fall?

Privacy will be one of the biggest concerns over a service like this, with your device being opened up to people, places and things like never before. You might want to think for a few minutes before switching the feature on.

Of course, that assumes your device isn’t already available to prying eyes

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