Do you often wonder what your friends are up to or maybe the exact location of your husband/wife when they claim to be “working late”? With the recent launch of Google Latitude, technology is getting closer.
Google Latitude is a new feature in the Google Maps application that allows you to keep tabs on your friends and family by knowing their exact location and status at all times. Latitude is an opt-in-only feature. No one will be able to see your location, or vice versa unless both parties agree to participate. To avoid appearing creepy, Google incorporated easy-to-change privacy settings so that locations can be automatically detected, manually entered or completely hidden from other people. If you choose to opt in, you always have the option to sign off or opt out of Latitude altogether. Once opted into Latitude, you can share, set, hide, or even display only a city-level location with certain friends. You can also choose allow your location to automatically update every several minutes while you are on the move.
Depending on your mobile specifications, Latitude either uses GPS satellites, cell-tower locations, or WiFi to determine your physical location. It currently works on Google’s G1, most Blackberry’s, and some other smart phones. According to Google, the iPhone, iPod Touch, and many Sony Ericsson devices will support Latitude soon. People who have compatible mobile devices must either upgrade their current version of Google Maps, and/or install Google maps for the first time in order to use Latitude.
Along with their locations, friends can also share other information on Latitude by uploading a status message and/or a personal photo, which appears as a tiny representative icon on a map (see image below). Changes to one’s status or picture will be reflected in the map, as well as in Google Talk. The technology also allows users to communicate with participating friends via: text messages, instant messages, or phone.
If you don’t have a compatible phone mentioned above, or don’t carry your phone to the office, Google Latitude will work on your PC as well. You can share your location manually with the iGoogle gadget, or use your computer’s WiFi location.
Even though it isn’t the first of its kind, Google Latitude appears to be relatively accurate and user friendly at first glance. If you choose to opt in, keep in mind that the results are not 100% accurate, and Google is working hard to constantly improve the application.