Track my location please
I’ve noticed some interesting applications lately that enable someone with a GPS receiver to broadcast their whereabouts to all and sundry on the web. The first I remember was the London bike route on the Contoso Bicycle club Quickapps demo. Then today I was made aware of Bill Snitzer filming his route from San Fransisco to Los Angeles and allowing people to track it on Google Maps (at the time of writing its not working too well but I’ll let them off). I’ve seen various other apps doing similar things.
It occurred to me that the various map online providers out there are missing a trick here. How difficult would it be to provide a service that allowed someone to broadcast their position on a publicly available map? Even better, how about if that map showing the person’s location could be embedded in a web page (just like you can do today with a conventional Google map) and automatically updated. Better still, only allow your position to be broadcast to people that you feel are worthy of knowing about it. There are a number of "bits" that are required here:
- Some software, probably hosted on a phone equipped with a GPS receiver, that can zap your position back to some service in the cloud that collects it and stores it. Yahoo, Google and Microsoft already have phone-based software that could easily allow this. I reviewed the Google and Microsoft offerings here.
- The cloud service to capture the information and then display it (this is the bit everyone is missing)
- Online maps (again Microsoft, Google and Yahoo already have this)
- An authentication system (they all have this too)
- A contacts list that could allow you to select who can see your position (Microsoft have this, not sure about Google and Yahoo)
- Ability to embed the map into a web page (Google have this)
- Ability for that map to auto-update with the person’s position (theoretically not too difficult for Google to add this)
- Somewhere to embed the map (Microsoft have this with Live Spaces, I suppose Google have it with blogger, not sure about Yahoo)
Most of the bits are just about in place. Why aren’t these three powerhouses coming out with this sort of service?
Aside from the coolness factor and the fun you can have with this there are some obvious real-world benefits too. Parents have the ability to track their kids, employers have the ability to track their staff, lads and lasses have the ability to track their wayward other halves 🙂 I’d be surprised if one of the aforementioned big three didn’t come out with some service like this in the near future.