Chrome OS Getting Nearby API For Connections, BLE Beacons

A new series of commits added to the Chromium Gerrit seems to suggest that Chrome OS will soon be getting its own implementation of Android's Nearby API, allowing for messaging, connections, and BLE beacons. For those who may not be aware, that library would bring a world of possibilities for developers, businesses, and users since it allows for connectivity beyond Wi-Fi. It also extends on the uses available for those wireless connections in terms of local services and a framework for communication between portable devices and hubs. Moreover, the API can deliver app-like productivity and services without an application and without an internet connection. For now, there's no timeline currently associated with the full implementation of the library. However, with consideration for the advent of Chrome OS tablets and the already portable Chromebooks, Nearby seems like a perfect fit for the platform.

As mentioned above, the API is effectively split between three different features. Nearby Messages allows for information to be exchanged between Internet-connected devices which share a token in the Nearby Messages server. That opens the way for content, media, and file sharing as well as messaging. It additionally allows for multiplayer gaming but that won't necessarily see a whole lot of use for Chromebooks except in the context of mobile games, for now. The token itself is created using a combination of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and near-ultrasonic audio and devices don't need to be on the same network. That's extended further by Nearby Connections, which allows for the same types of data exchange but entirely without requiring a Wi-Fi connection. Since it's a localized peer-to-peer networking type, the API allows for a couple of additional features as well. One prominent example may be the ability to share real-time collaboration across multiple screens. The library could be used by students or businesses to conduct meetings with interactions taking place via a virtual whiteboard or more casual users could share a gaming experience on a television, using Chrome OS devices as controllers. Meanwhile, the system turns on and off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections as needed in the background, adapting and optimizing across those to accommodate for the data being sent.

Last but not least, the Nearby library allows for Nearby Notifications. That is, in effect, a way to deliver Internet-like capabilities over Bluetooth and BLE. For example, an advertiser or business might utilize the library via BLE beacons to deliver web-like content, chatbots, coupons, or app-like experiences without a Wi-Fi connection. That includes services such as allowing visitors to a location to leave reviews or check-in. On the enterprise side of that, it allows systems that track inventory. All of those functions should make Chrome OS a much more appealing system for enterprise use but will also be useful for customers and general users. As of this writing, the work that's been completed on Nearby for Chrome OS is almost entirely in the form of stand-in code. That's being implemented for preliminary testing while work is completed on getting the full library ported directly into Chrome OS itself.

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About the Author
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Daniel Golightly

Senior Staff Writer
Daniel has been writing for AndroidHeadlines since 2016. As a Senior Staff Writer for the site, Daniel specializes in reviewing a diverse range of technology products and covering topics related to Chrome OS and Chromebooks. Daniel holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering and has a background in Writing and Graphics Design that drives his passion for Android, Google products, the science behind the technology, and the direction it's heading. Contact him at [email protected]