Publish and Subscribe

The Nearby Messages API is a publish-subscribe API which lets nearby devices exchange small payloads of data. Once a device publishes a message, nearby devices can receive the message. Message size should be kept fairly small to maintain good performance. This service is not meant for exchanging larger objects such as photos and videos.

The set of nearby devices is determined by the exchange of small tokens over Bluetooth and near-ultrasonic (inaudible) audio. When a device detects a token from a nearby device, it sends the token to the Nearby Messages server to validate it and check if there are any messages to deliver for the application’s current set of subscriptions.

An application can control the set of mediums used for device discovery, and whether the mediums are used to broadcast tokens and/or scan for tokens. By default, broadcasting and scanning is done on all the mediums. To do discovery on a subset or mediums, and to control whether to broadcast or scan, you must pass additional parameters when you create publications and subscriptions.

This library runs on iOS 7 and above, and builds with the iOS 8 SDK.

Creating a message manager

This code creates a message manager object, which lets you publish and subscribe. Message exchange is unauthenticated, so you must supply a public API key for iOS. You can create one using the Google Developers Console entry for your project.

Objective-C

#import <GNSMessages.h>

GNSMessageManager *messageManager =
    [[GNSMessageManager alloc] initWithAPIKey:@"API_KEY"];

Swift

let messageManager = GNSMessageManager(APIKey: "API_KEY")

Publishing a message

This code snippet demonstrates publishing a message containing a name. The publication is active as long as the publication object exists. To stop publishing, release the publication object.

Objective-C

id<GNSPublication> publication =
    [messageManager publicationWithMessage:[GNSMessage messageWithContent:[name dataUsingEncoding:NSUTF8StringEncoding]]];

Swift

let publication =
    messageManager.publication(with: GNSMessage(content: name.data(using: .utf8)))

Subscribing to messages

This code snippet demonstrates subscribing to all names shared by the previous publication snippet. The subscription is active as long as the subscription objects exists. To stop subscribing, release the subscription object.

The message found handler is called when nearby devices that are publishing messages are discovered. The message lost handler is called when a message is no longer observed (the device has gone out of range or is no longer publishing the message).

Objective-C

id<GNSSubscription> subscription =
    [messageManager subscriptionWithMessageFoundHandler:^(GNSMessage *message) {
      // Add the name to a list for display
    }
    messageLostHandler:^(GNSMessage *message) {
      // Remove the name from the list
    }];

Swift

let subscription =
    messageManager.subscription(messageFoundHandler: { (message: GNSMessage?) in
      // Add the name to a list for display
    },
    messageLostHandler: { (message: GNSMessage?) in
      // Remove the name from the list
    })

Discovery mediums

By default, both mediums (audio and Bluetooth) will be used to discover nearby devices, and both mediums will broadcast and scan. For certain cases, you are required to add the following entries to your app's Info.plist:

  • If your app scans using audio, add NSMicrophoneUsageDescription, which is a string describing why you will be using the microphone. For example, "The microphone listens for anonymous tokens from nearby devices."

  • If your app broadcasts using BLE, add NSBluetoothPeripheralUsageDescription, which is a string describing why you will be advertising on BLE. For example, "An anonymous token is advertised via Bluetooth to discover nearby devices."

In some cases, your app may need to use only one of the mediums, and it may not need to do both broadcasting and scanning on that medium.

For instance, an app that is designed to connect to a set-top box that's broadcasting on audio only needs to scan on audio to discover it. The following snippet shows how to publish a message to that set-top box using only audio scanning for discovery:

Objective-C

id<GNSPublication> publication = [messageManager publicationWithMessage:message
    paramsBlock:^(GNSPublicationParams *params) {
      params.strategy = [GNSStrategy strategyWithParamsBlock:^(GNSStrategyParams *params) {
        params.discoveryMediums = kGNSDiscoveryMediumsAudio;
        params.discoveryMode = kGNSDiscoveryModeScan;
      }];
    }];

Swift

let publication = messageManager.publication(with: message,
    paramsBlock: { (params: GNSPublicationParams?) in
      guard let params = params else { return }
      params.strategy = GNSStrategy(paramsBlock: { (params: GNSStrategyParams?) in
        guard let params = params else { return }
        params.discoveryMediums = .audio
        params.discoveryMode = .scan
      })
    })

Enabling debug logging

Debug logging prints significant internal events to the console that can be useful for tracking down problems that you may encounter when integrating Nearby Messages into your app. We will ask for these logs if you contact us for technical support.

You should enable it before creating a message manager. This code snippet shows how to enable debug logging:

Objective-C

[GNSMessageManager setDebugLoggingEnabled:YES];

Swift

GNSMessageManager.setDebugLoggingEnabled(true)

Tracking the Nearby permission state

User consent is required to enable device discovery. This is indicated by the Nearby permission state. On the first call to create a publication or subscription, the user is presented with a consent dialog. If the user does not consent, device discovery will not work. In this case, your app should show a message to remind the user that device discovery is disabled. The permission state is stored in NSUserDefaults.

The following snippet demonstrates subscribing to the permission state. The permission state changed handler is called whenever the state changes, and it is not called the first time until the user has given or denied permission. Release the permission object to stop subscribing.

Objective-C

GNSPermission *nearbyPermission = [[GNSPermission alloc] initWithChangedHandler:^(BOOL granted) {
  // Update the UI here
}];

Swift

let nearbyPermission = GNSPermission(changedHandler: { (granted: Bool) in
  // Update the UI here
})

Your app can provide a way for the user to change the permission state; for example, by using a toggle switch on a settings page.

Here’s an example of how to get and set the permission state.

Objective-C

BOOL permissionState = [GNSPermission isGranted];
[GNSPermission setGranted:!permissionState];  // toggle the state

Swift

let permissionState = GNSPermission.isGranted()
GNSPermission.setGranted(!permissionState)  // toggle the state

Tracking user settings that affect Nearby

If the user has denied microphone permission, denied Bluetooth permission, or has turned Bluetooth off, Nearby will not work as well, or may not work at all. Your app should show a message in these cases, alerting the user that Nearby’s operations are being hindered. The following snippet shows how to track the status of these user settings by passing handlers when creating the message manager:

Objective-C

GNSMessageManager *messageManager = [[GNSMessageManager alloc]
    initWithAPIKey:API_KEY
       paramsBlock:^(GNSMessageManagerParams *params) {
         params.microphonePermissionErrorHandler = ^(BOOL hasError) {
           // Update the UI for microphone permission
         };
         params.bluetoothPowerErrorHandler = ^(BOOL hasError) {
           // Update the UI for Bluetooth power
         };
         params.bluetoothPermissionErrorHandler = ^(BOOL hasError) {
           // Update the UI for Bluetooth permission
         };
}];

Swift

let messageManager = GNSMessageManager(
         APIKey: API_KEY,
    paramsBlock: { (params: GNSMessageManagerParams?) in
      guard let params = params else { return }
      params.microphonePermissionErrorHandler = { (hasError: Bool) in
        // Update the UI for microphone permission
      }
      params.bluetoothPowerErrorHandler = { (hasError: Bool) in
        // Update the UI for Bluetooth power
      }
      params.bluetoothPermissionErrorHandler = { (hasError: Bool) in
        // Update the UI for Bluetooth permission
      }
    })

Overriding the Nearby permission dialog

Depending on the parameters you pass into your publications and subscriptions, iOS may ask for various permissions before allowing Nearby to function. For instance, the default strategy listens for data transmitted on near-ultrasonic audio, so iOS will ask for permission to use the microphone. In these cases, Nearby will show a "preflight" dialog that explains why the user is being asked to give permission.

If you want to provide a custom "preflight" dialog, set the permissionRequestHandler parameter to a custom block in the publication or subscription parameters. Your custom block must call the permissionHandler block after the user has responded. The following snippet shows how to do this for a publication:

Objective-C

id<GNSPublication> publication =
    [messageManager publicationWithMessage:[GNSMessage messageWithContent:[name dataUsingEncoding:NSUTF8StringEncoding]]
                               paramsBlock:^(GNSPublicationParams *params) {
                                 params.permissionRequestHandler = ^(GNSPermissionHandler permissionHandler) {
                                   // Show your custom dialog here.
                                   // Don't forget to call permissionHandler() with YES or NO when the user dismisses it.
                                 };
                               }];

Swift

let publication =
    messageManager.publication(with: GNSMessage(content: name.data(using: .utf8)),
        paramsBlock: { (params: GNSPublicationParams?) in
          guard let params = params else { return }
          params.permissionRequestHandler = { (permissionHandler: GNSPermissionHandler?) in
            // Show your custom dialog here.
            // Don't forget to call permissionHandler() with true or false when the user dismisses it.
          }
        })

Background operation

Publications and subscriptions that use BLE for device discovery can work in the background. Here are some things you should be aware of when deciding to use background mode:

  • Background operations must use the BLE medium only; audio is not supported.
  • There is an added battery cost for background BLE. The cost is low, but you should measure it before deciding to use background mode.
  • iOS will ask the user for permission to advertise via BLE in the background.

To add background mode to a publication or subscription, follow these additional steps:

  • Enable background mode and BLE-only in your publication or subscription by passing in a properly configured GNSStrategy object. The following snippet shows how to do this for a subscription:

    Objective-C

    id<GNSSubscription> subscription =
        [messageManager subscriptionWithMessageFoundHandler:^(GNSMessage *message) {
          // Add the name to a list for display
        }
        messageLostHandler:^(GNSMessage *message) {
          // Remove the name from the list
        }
        paramsBlock:^(GNSSubscriptionParams *params) {
          params.strategy = [GNSStrategy strategyWithParamsBlock:^(GNSStrategyParams *params) {
            params.allowInBackground = YES;
            params.discoveryMediums = kGNSDiscoveryMediumsBLE;
          }];
        }];
    

    Swift

    let subscription =
        messageManager.subscription(messageFoundHandler: { (message: GNSMessage?) in
          // Add the name to a list for display
        },
        messageLostHandler: { (message: GNSMessage?) in
          // Remove the name from the list
        },
        paramsBlock:{ (params: GNSSubscriptionParams?) in
          guard let params = params else { return }
          params.strategy = GNSStrategy(paramsBlock: { (params: GNSStrategyParams?) in
            guard let params = params else { return }
            params.allowInBackground = true
            params.discoveryMediums = .BLE
          })
        })
    

  • Add these entries to your app's Info.plist:

    • UIBackgroundModes entries:

      • bluetooth-central for BLE scanning in the background. Needed only when the discovery mode includes scanning; it does by default.
      • bluetooth-peripheral for BLE advertising in the background. Needed only when the discovery mode includes broadcasting; it does by default.
    • NSBluetoothPeripheralUsageDescription string describing why you will be advertising on BLE. For example, "An anonymous token is advertised via Bluetooth to discover nearby devices." See Apple's documentation for details.

  • Your app can be killed at any time by the system while in the background. If background mode is a setting that can be enabled or disabled by the user, your app should do the following:

    • Save the background mode value to NSUserDefaults whenever the user changes it.
    • On startup, read it from NSUserDefaults and restore the Nearby publications and/or subscriptions if background mode is enabled.

Background notifications

If you want your app to notify the user when a subscription receives a message while the background, you can use local notifications.

Follow these steps to add them to your app:

  • Register for local notifications on startup:

    Objective-C

    if ([UIApplication instancesRespondToSelector:@selector(registerUserNotificationSettings:)]) {
      [[UIApplication sharedApplication] registerUserNotificationSettings:
          [UIUserNotificationSettings settingsForTypes:
              UIUserNotificationTypeAlert | UIUserNotificationTypeBadge | UIUserNotificationTypeSound
                                            categories:nil]];
    }
    

    Swift

    UIApplication.shared.registerUserNotificationSettings(
        UIUserNotificationSettings(types: [.alert, .badge, .sound], categories: nil))
    

  • Send a local notification in the message-found handler of your subscription:

    Objective-C

    GNSMessageHandler myMessageFoundHandler = ^(GNSMessage *message) {
        // Send a local notification if not in the foreground.
        if ([UIApplication sharedApplication].applicationState != UIApplicationStateActive) {
          UILocalNotification *localNotification = [[UILocalNotification alloc] init];
          localNotification.alertBody = @"Message received";
          [[UIApplication sharedApplication] presentLocalNotificationNow:localNotification];
        }
        // Process the new message...
      };
    

    Swift

    let myMessageFoundHandler: GNSMessageHandler = { (message: GNSMessage?) in
      // Send a local notification if not in the foreground.
      if UIApplication.shared.applicationState != .active {
        let localNotification = UILocalNotification()
        localNotification.alertBody = "Message received"
        UIApplication.shared.presentLocalNotificationNow(localNotification)
      }
      // Process the new message...
    }
    

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Nearby Messages API for iOS
Nearby Messages API for iOS