Google is working on a crowd-sourced network of Android devices to locate lost smartphones, tablets, and other Android-powered gadgets. Works on this project, codenamed Spot, were first spotted back in June. Now, more information about this Apple-style “Find My Device Network” has emerged, revealing how Google plans to make it work. The details were found inside version 2.4.043_df of the Google Find My Device app (df here stands for dogfood, which is a pre-release version of an app that is meant for internal testing).
Google Find My Device Network: how it works
If you don’t already know, Apple’s Find My network uses a crowd-sourced network of iOS devices for locating lost iPhones. The devices broadcast Bluetooth signals that can be picked up by any nearby iOS device and relay its location to the cloud anonymously. The feature works even when the lost device is offline. Apple’s AirTag (Samsung’s SmartTag too) also uses the same method to locate lost things that don’t have an internet connection. Google’s upcoming Find My Device Network will work somewhat similarly as well.
The Find My Device app will let you mark an Android-powered device as lost. At this point, any nearby signed-in Android device will pick up Bluetooth signals from this missing device and report a “sighting” to the network. You’ll get a notification of this sighting. The user whose device relayed the signals will also be notified that “they helped a fellow member of the network,” though it will not reveal your identity.
You will be able to ring the device if you’re within range. Once you’ve located the device, you can mark it as found so other devices stop reporting its location to the network.
Google will also let you add other people as owners of the lost device. This means multiple users will get notifications when a “sighting” is reported. As such, the person nearest to its location will be able to quickly find it. There appear to be two ways to share a device with other users — via a QR Code and by sending a link. The link will likely expire if not accepted within a stipulated time.
The app notes that people with who you’ve shared your device will be able to track its locations anytime, even after the device has been found. All co-owners will also see each other’s email addresses.
Remotely erase your phone and vehicle
A Find My Device app won’t be complete if you can’t remotely erase your phone, so any sensitive information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. But Google is also seemingly bringing a similar sort of feature to Android Automotive-powered vehicles.
For the uninitiated, Android Automotive is different from Android Auto. The latter essentially only relays the connection from your phone to your car’s infotainment system. You aren’t actually sharing any information with the car itself.
Android Automotive, meanwhile, is a newer system that lets you sign in to your own Google Account. This enables you to access all the smart features that you get with Android Auto without a connected smartphone. But this also means if your car is stolen, the thieves could access your Google account as well, and any personal information saved there.
To that end, the Find My Device app will let you remotely lock your profile in cars. If your car is offline, the profile will be locked as soon as it goes online the next time. It will require the existing password for unlocking. You can also remotely delete your profile.
Google has yet to officially announce its plans for the Find My Device Network. But now that it has appeared in a “dogfood” build of the app, we shouldn’t be too far from its public release. We will be keeping a close eye on this development.