Google wants apps to be more aware of your surroundings than you are

Android's new API can tell what's going on around your phone

 Google wants apps to be more aware of your surroundings than you are

Google's IO 2016 keynote has passed, but news from the tech megacorp keeps on comin' for Android developers.

The mobile platform is getting a new toy to play with courtesy of Google's Awareness API – a framework that gives apps a basic understanding of your phone's actual surroundings.

What does that mean? In essence, the interface detect factors such as time, place, user activity, headphone placement, or weather so that apps can get an idea of what the user is up to at a given moment.

For example, a music streaming app like Spotify could tell when the user is running with headphones in, and thus suggest a high-tempo workout jam. Meanwhile, a fitness tracker app could also begin counting steps, even if the user forgot to boot up the program beforehand.

The Awareness API is actually comprised of two separate interfaces. The first, dubbed the Fence API, triggers when one or more contextual conditions are met, like the example above with the headphones and jogging.

The second, called the Snapshot API, is granted permission to gather data based on the current moment, such as seeing what the weather's like each morning at a given hour and responding accordingly.

While the potential of apps being able to respond to outside stimuli is a fascinating prospect for Android, it will be a major responsibility of developers to ensure users have both knowledge and control over how "aware" their apps become.

No one, least of all Google, needs to know how many times I looped ABBA's 'Gold' album during my commute home.

Article continues below

Tags