Washington [US]: American technology giant Google might be working on turning Android phones into a hivemind capable of finding lost devices, similar to what Apple's Find My network does.
According to The Verge, a toggle for this new feature recently showed up in a beta version of Google Play Services, with code referencing the ability for phones to help locate other devices, potentially signalling that Android phones could soon become easier to find. Google's own support page says, the current Find My Device system can only find phones that are powered on, have a data or Wi-Fi signal, and have location services enabled.
At this early stage, it's quite unclear as to which, if any, of those limitations the relay network feature, apparently called Spot, would solve, but when one is looking for a lost phone, any advantage is good to have.
As per Mashable, there is also a setting that would allow users to turn off the feature, making it so their phone wouldn't help locate other devices.
Given the limited information, it's unclear whether the Find My Device network will be able to find things other than phones, like Apple's Find My network or Samsung's Galaxy Find network are capable of doing. Because this an unpacked code from a Beta release, there is a chance that these changes might never see an actual public release.
Notably, Google has other projects that involve using a network of Android phones, like its earthquake detection feature. While the implementation is different, the underlying concept is likely very similar.
There are more than 3 billion active Android devices, which is a large crowd to source information from, be it their accelerometer data, or the location of a misplaced phone.