Location Tracking with Google Latitude
Google Latitude is a free application that brings location tracking to your mobile phone even without GPS. That means if you are travelling with a mobile phone that has Google Latitude installed, your family members and friends can track your exact location on Google Maps through any Internet connected computer.
The software is currently available for most BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Nokia S60 phones though an iPhone version of Latitude is still in the works - you can visit google.com/latitude from your mobile browser to know if Latitude is supported on your phone on not.
I was in Bangalore last month for a search conference and my family members were able to track my journey using the computer that’s in our living room. Latitude probably helped in reducing my mobile “roaming” bill as well because earlier, if I were to drive to another city, my mom would call me every few hours just to know where I was - now she can just locate me through the Internet.
Tip #1. You don’t want a stranger to know that you are inside a bank’s ATM so make sure that you don’t approve every incoming friend request on Latitude even if the request has come from a person who is listed as a contact in your email address book. Only family members and close friends should be part of your Google Latitude network.
Tip #2. Google Latitude determines your current location using the nearby cell phone towers. If, for some reason, Latitude is unable to detect your exact location, you can set it manually on your phone.
Tip #3. Google Latitude is a data intensive application and I don’t really recommend it if you have a pay-per-byte data plan on your phone.
Tip #4. You don’t need a mobile phone to broadcast your current location via Latitude. If you have a web browser with Google Gears and you’re inside a Wi-Fi zone, Latitude can still detect and update your location on the Internet using the GeoLocation API.
Tip #5. If you are travelling with a laptop and there’re no wireless access points nearby, you can manually update your location on Latitude though this iGoogle Gadget.
Tip #6. Google Latitude can drain the battery of your phone more quickly as the application attempts to update your location as you move around. Please keep point this in mind if your phone battery is low.
Tip #7. Entering a pub but don’t want mom to know about it? Make sure you either hide the location in Latitude or set it manually to a different place.
Tip #8. 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.
Tip #9. Google Latitude can bring some piece of mind. For example, if your kids have just joined kindergarten, you can mute the ringer of your mobile phone and drop it somewhere inside their school bag. This will help you keep track of the school bus and you’ll always know where your children are.
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.
Google Developer Expert, Google Cloud Champion
Amit Agarwal is a Google Developer Expert in Google Workspace and Google Apps Script. He holds an engineering degree in Computer Science (I.I.T.) and is the first professional blogger in India.