Google’s new mobile maps upgrade includes a cell phone tracker that lets you follow your friends’ or families’ locations in real-time. The cell phone tracker is called “Latitude.” It plots a user’s location using cell phone towers, GPS or Wi-Fi connections. Users’ pictures show up on the corresponding location on a Google map.
Google is initially releasing Latitude for phones running on Symbian and Windows Mobile. There’s a limited release for Android phones; Apple products are next. Google has also offered a version of the tracker for PCs.
Google can plot a person’s location within a few yards if it’s using GPS or might be off by several miles if it’s relying on transmission from cell phone towers. People who don’t want to be precise about their whereabouts can choose to display just the city instead of a specific neighborhood.
There 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. Google has been investing heavily 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.
I hope that Google Latitude opens doors for more successful targeted advertising efforts. I’m as tired as the next person of seeing Internet ads, but if Google’s cell phone tracker enables advertisers to put forth something useful on your cell phone–like coupons for the ice cream store you’re standing next to–that could be a benefit for everyone.