Google has released a new way for smartphones to communicate when in close proximity.
Google Nearby refers to a new set of tools designed to help developers make the process of sharing data locally easier. Think Apple's AirDrop, but with potentially more useful cross-platform capabilities.
As Google points out in the related Developers blog, mobile phones have made it easy to communicate with people wherever you are. It's ironic, then, that they're at their most awkward and fiddly when you're sat right next to the person with whom you want to share that data.
The fact that it takes several steps or inputs to share contact details, say, or to pair via Bluetooth with someone sitting opposite you seems counter-intuitive.
Nearby offers a solution to that issue. It uses a combination of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and inaudible sound via a phone's mic and speakers to establish proximity.
The latest release of Google Play Services makes the Nearby Messages API available to developers, and it works across Android and iOS. Indeed, you won't even need a Google account to make use of Google Nearby. The first time a Nearby app is used, it will simply put out a request for permission to share data – and that's it.
Google goes on to offer examples of the potential uses of Google Nearby for third-party developers. Edjing, for example, lets DJs push tracklists to the people around them; the audience, in turn, can vote on tracks they like.
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Trulia, meanwhile, makes house hunting easier by setting up boards and allowing people in your locality to join in seamlessly.
Expect to see plenty more Google Nearby applications in the coming weeks and months.