Google Latitude

Posted: February 6, 2009 by Shishir Gupta in Computer Articles, Google, Operating System, Technologies
Tags: , ,

photocms

The search giant Google has released a software that allows users of mobile phones and other wireless devices in 27 countries, including India, to automatically share their whereabouts with family and friends.

The feature, dubbed `Latitude,’ expands upon a tool introduced in 2007 to broadcast their location to others constantly, using Google Latitude with the press of a button. With this upgrade to its mobile maps, Google Inc hopes to prove it can track people on the go as effectively as it searches for information on the Internet.

What you can do?
photo1cmsWith Google Latitude, users friends’ and relatives’ whereabouts can be tracked on a Google map, either from a handset or from a personal computer. “Not only can you see your friends’ locations on a map, but you can also be in touch directly via SMS, Google Talk, Gmail, or by updating your status message,” Google said in a company blog post announcing the new feature.

Once you and your friends have opted in for Google Latitude, you can see your friends’ Google icon on Google Maps. Clicking on these icons will allow you to call, email or IM them. Users can also use the `directions’ feature on Google Maps to help them get to their location.

How it works?
photo2cmsThe software plots a user’s location – marked by a personal picture on Google’s map – by relying on cell phone towers, global positioning systems or a Wi-Fi connection to deduce their location.

Google can plot a person’s location within a few yards if it is using GPS, or might be off by several miles if it’s relying on transmission from cell phone towers.

How to safeguard your privacy?
photo3cmsWondering what about users’ privacy? There’s no threat, claims Google. The service is an opt-in. This means users can control precisely who among their friends and relations can see their whereabouts. They can also hide their location from everyone or some particular people. There is also an option to share only the city they’re in generally (not the exact place), or just turn the service off.

Controls allow users to select who receives the information or to go offline at any time, Google says on its website. Google is also promising not to retain any information about its users’ movements. Only the last location picked up by the tracking service will be stored on Google’s computers.

Supporting gadgets
photo4cmsLatitude will work on Research In Motion Ltd’s Blackberry and devices running on Symbian S60 devices or Microsoft Corp’s Windows Mobile and some mobile phones running on Google’s Android software.

The software will eventually run on Apple’s iPhone and iTouch and many Sony Ericsson devices. Latitude works on mobile smartphones and as an iGoogle gadget on desktop and laptop computers.

PC Support
photo5cmsTo widen the software’s appeal, Google is offering a version that can be installed on personal computers as well. The PC access is designed for people who don’t have a mobile phone but still may want to keep tabs on their children or someone else special, Google said.

People using the PC version can also be watched if they are connected to the Internet through Wi-Fi.

Others in the race
photo6cmsGoogle’s new service is similar to the service offered by privately-held Loopt. Companies including Verizon Wireless, owned by Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc, already offer Loopt’s service, which also works on iPhone from Apple Inc.

Loopt’s service is compatible with more than 100 types of mobile phones.

Making Moolah
photo7cmsThere are no current plans to sell any advertising alongside Google’s tracking service, although analysts believe knowing a person’s location eventually will unleash new marketing opportunities.

The company has been investing consistently in the mobile market during the past two years in an attempt to make its services more useful to people when they’re away from their office or home computers.

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