Friday, February 6, 2009

Google Latitude: Social GPS

The latest product to come out the door of the creative mecca known as Google is Google Latitude. Latitude allows users to track their friends' position on their phone or through the Latitude gadget on iGoogle. Of course when I first found out about this new product, I immediately downloaded it on my HTC phone. It integrates nicely into Google Maps (through a GMM upgrade) and even gives you an easy way to update your GTalk status from your phone. Unfortunately it seems that you position is only tracked while you have Google Maps open on your device and are using GPS. This may all work differently (better) on the iPhone so I hope one of you iPhone snobs can report back.

Some may complain that this is very Big Brotheresque, but you have the option of turning tracking off at any time so I don't really buy it. I can see several practical uses for Latitude:

  1. If I am coming home from work and Lori is at home and wants to see how I am faring in traffic to anticipate my arrival time, I can leave my GPS on and she can track me online.
  2. When we go up to my in-laws in Jersey or down to my Mom's in Richmond, they can follow our progress and know when to expect us (instead of calling every hour asking where we are).
  3. My boss at work (who is somewhat of a technophobe and looks like this guy) could use this to track all his employees and he could stop calling me and asking where I am.
  4. If you are taking a road trip with several cars, it would be cool to be able to track where everyone is if people get seperated.
  5. If you're out bar hopping one night and randomly find out that one of your friends is a few blocks away.
Now is all of this essential to your everyday well being?  No, of course not.  But I enjoy most advances in technology and believe this does have some practical applications. This is yet another example of a cool gadget delivered by Google that is (of course, once again) FREE to use. And I'm betting that in 3 to 5 years we will see this sort of social GPS functionality embedded in most GPS systems (Garmin, Tom Tom, etc...).

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