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Google Latitude : Broadcasting Your Location

Google Latitude broadcasts your location from your mobile phone, letting your friends know where you are and keep in touch anywhere in the world..

Tina S
Tina S
Jan 4, 2010
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 Google Latitude is a location-aware mobile app developed by Google. Latitude allows a mobile phone user to allow certain people on to track their location. Via their own iGoogle accounts, the user's cell phone location is mapped on Google Maps. The user can control the accuracy and details of what each of the other users can see — an exact location can be allowed, or it can be limited to identifying the city only. For privacy, it can also be turned off by the user, or a location can be manually entered.

Interestingly, Google is launching its own homegrown location-broadcasting service just weeks after killing off Dodgeball, a very similar location service Google let languish in private beta mode until it shut it down completely.
To give Latitude a try, just download the latest version of Google Maps for mobile with Latitude. There’s also an iGoogle gadget for use on your laptop or PC. If you are traveling with a laptop and there’re no wireless access points nearby, you can manually update your location on Latitude though this iGoogle Gadget.
 
Your list of Latitude friends works much like your Gchat friend list. You have to request to be allowed to chat with someone, and they must accept you before you can talk to them.
 
On Latitude, there's a little more middle ground, for the sake of social grace; you can accept someone else's location and share back, accept their location and hide yours, deny their location or block them. You can also change privacy levels for each individual friend after you accept them by going to their Latitude profile, or for all friends by entering the "privacy" menu in your account. Once you're up and running, you can display your location along with a Twitter-like message: "Getting lunch, come join me!" or "At the dentist, come join me!" Or something like that. 
 
Amid concerns over locational privacy, Google announced that Latitude overwrites a user's previous location with the new location data, and does not keep logs of locations provided to the service. Nevertheless, Latitude users can opt-in to keeping a history of their locations in Google Latitude.
 
Some other features:
 
1. Google Maps makes it easy to get turn-by-turn driving directions.
 
2. Check bus and subway schedules, determine what transfers you need to make, and plan adventures in more than 50 cities around the world.
 
3. Google's local search engine allows you to search for businesses by name (e.g. "Starbucks"), or by type (e.g. "coffee"). View store hours and ratings, and then dial the business you're interested in with a single click.
 
4. View street level imagery of addresses, businesses, and turns in directions in much of the US, Australia, Japan, and parts of Europe.
 
5. Google Maps will turn highways green, yellow, or red, based on real-time traffic data.
 
6. Bookmark your favorite places so that you can easily return to them on the map.

Google isn't the first developer to provide this functionality. Orthographically anemic services like Whrll and Loopt have been doing this for a while, as has Helio with its service Buddy Beacon. But those services didn't democratize localized buddy because they were restricted to a small pool of users with certain phones and certain carriers. What Google Latitude promises to do is nothing short of full-scale deployment of buddy-tracking for almost anyone with a halfway-decent phone.
 
This prospect is a milestone for several reasons. For one, Latitude is also available on desktop PC versions of Google Maps, not just in the mobile application. That means that should you choose to broadcast yourself, you're not just telling your friends about your daily junkets, but you're also cluing them in to the whereabouts of your computer. It used to be that an over-geeked worker could escape civilization by turning off her BlackBerry; now to unplug, she'll be ditching the laptop, too.
 
PC functionality marks another benchmark in technological thought: To anyone born before, say, 1990, a "computer" meant a beige box that sat next to your desk, with a keyboard and a mouse. The day that Latitude has become worth installing on a PC is the day when "computer" has come to mean notebook, netbook, portable, tablet, or mobile workstation. 
 
Sure, laptops have been edging out desktops in sales for a couple of years now, and netbooks have created something of a PC crack boom. But with Latitude, our conversion to notebook society is complete.
Google Latitude won’t work inside an airplane so prior to boarding the aircraft, you can set your status in Google Latitude to something like "Boarded flight American Airlines 4815 to New York – On time – ETA 5:30 PM." You can now switch off the mobile phone but your Latitude status will help family members who are planning to receive you at the airport.
 
One place you won’t find the Latitude application is on the iPhone. Because Latitude is an always-on service, operating silently in the background, it runs afoul of Apple’s iPhone SDK. Google is reportedly working on a version of Latitude for the company’s Google Mobile App for the iPhone, but for now anyway, iPhone users are out of luck.
 
The only piece missing here is a Google Latitude API – that means you can’t update your current location on Google Maps from external apps like Twitter or Facebook. 
 
Compatibility:
 
Google Latitude is compatible with most devices running Android, BlackBerry OS, Windows Mobile, Symbian s60, and the iPhone.
 
Initially Google promised on the Latitude page that it would be available for Java (J2ME) phones, but this claim was later removed from the site.
 
Both the Sony Ericsson W995, C903 and C510 mobile phones support Google Latitude as part of their built-in Google Maps application. Although this is a J2ME application, it cannot be downloaded for use with other mobile phones.
 

 
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