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Google to Battle Apple's iBeacon With 'Google Nearby'


As Apple continues development on its proximity-aware iBeacon and Continuity, Google will soon debut a service that also triggers actions based on device location.

Hot on the heels of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) announcement of Continuity, as well as its continued development with its iBeacon technology, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) plans to debut its own proximity-aware service called Nearby.
During last week's Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple showcased -- among other things -- a feature called Continuity, which allows users to share files and functionality based on their devices' proximity to one another. Designed for cross-compatibility with iOS 8 and Mac OS Yosemite, the service enables users to pick up a document, email, or website exactly where they left off on another device -- which, admittedly, is a cloud capability built into Google's Web app suite that users have been using for years. But where Continuity really shines is in its ability to answer calls and text messages from your laptop if your phone is on the same Wi-Fi signal, a feature that Google hasn't quite perfected with its delayed Google Voice-Hangouts integration.
Along with Continuity, Apple has been making strides with proximity-aware technology, particularly in iBeacon (see: The Biggest iPhone 5S Feature Nobody's Talking About). Using Bluetooth low energy, iBeacons are small, wireless sensors that can detect an iOS device at a variety of ranges up to 160 feet. They've already been deployed in a number of Apple Store retail locations as well as at Heathrow Airport, triggering notifications like special offers or boarding passes. And since it works very well indoors, it supplants GPS for accurate location detection.
But as intriguing as Continuity and iBeacon are, Google hopes to turn heads with Nearby.
According to Android Police's Liam Spradlin, Nearby will use information from a device's location to interact with other users, locations, and Nearby-enabled devices. Copy from an unreleased version of the service reads, "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."
While it's still in its early stages, Nearby is expected to sport similar functionality to Continuity and iBeacon. Location-based interactions, such as reminders, retail offers, and home automation, could easily be implemented. Google Now users might also see that "Remind me when I'm with this person" feature that was teased in a recent rumor (see: Google Now Virtual Assistant to Get Some Nifty Features, Rumors Say). Handy touch-to-share functionality could make an appearance given Google's acquisition of Bump last September, and user authentication based on audio, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth may be integrated thanks to Mountain View's buyout of SlickLogin.
But perhaps the richest integration might come in the form of Android Wear, Google's pared-down version of Android for wearable devices (see: Google Just Upped the Ante in the Wearables Game). Considering the smaller, simpler screens, location awareness and wireless interaction will play a key role in quick and effective usability for Android Wear. As seen in the platform's promo video, Nearby could be responsible for automating proximity-based features like opening a garage door or switching on a light once you're near.
All combined, this will certainly make for an interesting battle between Apple and Google in the coming years and produce some Jetsons-level automation for their legions of devoted fans.

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