Since about a decade, metal-induced energy transfer (MIET) has become a tool to measure the distance of fluorophores to a metal-coated surface with nanometer accuracy. The energy transfer from a fluorescent molecule to surface plasmons within a metal film results in the acceleration of its radiative decay rate. This can be observed as a reduction of the molecule’s fluorescence lifetime which can be easily measured with standard microscopy equipment. The achievable distance resolution is in the nanometer range, over a total range of about 200 nm. The method is perfectly compatible with biological and even live cell samples. In this review, we will summarize the theoretical and technical details of the method and present the most important results that have been obtained using MIET. We will also show how the latest technical developments can contribute to improving MIET, and we sketch some interesting directions for its future applications in the life sciences.