Skip the navigation

Google Latitude lets you track friends, employees

Analyst: Google Maps upgrade marries social networking, mapping and mobility

February 4, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Need to know in real time which service truck is closest to a customer's location? Want to know whether your daughter really is at the library or how your friend is progressing on a trip through Napa Valley?

Google Inc. just made it a bit easier to get that information.

The company today unveiled an upgrade to Google Maps that allows people to track the exact location of friends or family through their mobile devices. Google Latitude not only shows the location of friends, but it can also be used to contact them via SMS, Google Talk or Gmail, said Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering with Google's mobile team, in a blog post. A beta version of Google Latitude was released more than a year ago.

"Now you can do things like see if your spouse is stuck in traffic on the way home from work, notice that a buddy is in town for the weekend or take comfort in knowing that a loved one's flight landed safely, despite bad weather," wrote Gundotra. "It's a fun way to feel close to the people you care about."

Scott Ellison, vice president of mobile and wireless at IDC, said such GPS technology has been available from other vendors for some time, Google's entry into the business prompts a lot of buzz.

Dan Olds, principal analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said the Google tool is interesting even if there are obvious potential privacy issues when people know your every move.

"Latitude puts a powerful tool in users' hands. Parents can easily track their children. People can follow their friends' travels," said Olds. "Businesses can watch employee movements across the world or inside a particular facility. It will allow them to quickly dispatch, for example, the closest service person to a customer location. With Latitude, it can be done without taking the time to call service people to find out if the workers actually are where they think they are. The company will automatically know."

Related Blog

But Olds also noted that people need to think through who can access such personal information. "Users need to understand how to do it and why they probably don't want to constantly broadcast their locations to the world at large," he added.

Google explained in an online statement that users can opt into the GPS feature or allow only specific friends or family members to follow their travels. Once an agreement is reached, users will be able to see their friends' profile pictures appear on a map through their mobile device or desktop computer.



Our Commenting Policies