Saturday, February 14, 2009

Longawaited Latitude

Google Maps mobile app screenOne of those days when I was bored to death, I decided to chat with my friend
Me: Today I thought of sharing an idea with you, may be we can build on the idea if it makes sense

Friend: yeah tell me

Me: My problem is this… My cousin stays at RT Nagar and it take an hour's drive from my place to his place.

Friend: ok

Me: Whenever I start from place i call him and say I've started. After some time he calls me in between to check where I have reached. If I had a mobile app which uses GPS or cell tower id or whatever possible to locate me and broadcast my location at regular intervals on a map using GPRS and could be shared with him then he doesn't have to call me. Right?

Friend: There are apps available which does this

Me: But I haven't found anything which works well in India and especially with my phone which doesn't have GPS. That's why I thought of building it ourselves

Friend: Nice idea

Me: The app should have some privacy features too. E.g. I have you and my cousin in my friend list. But I don’t want you to see my location every time, you should see only if I decide.

Friend: yeah true....I don’t want everybody to know that I am in the bar :-)

Me: correct.

Friend: Yeah. You can hide yourself. In that case app will show only your last known public location

Me: but then no one will see me right? I should have granular settings to say who should see me and who shouldn't. Show my location to Everyone or Selected ones.

Friend: Yes

Me: I went to bar and broadcasted my location to everyone. This happened y'day. Now I’m at work but I’m not broadcasting

Friend: ok

Me: should it still show the bar as my location?

Friend: It shouldn't.

Me: Yes. But the thing is so how do you decide when to show me or not

Friend: if you are not broadcasting, the map will not show you - even your last location.

Me: But when do i broadcast, ie i opened my app… Will it continuously be connected via GPRS or update periodically or updated when i press a button

Friend: You need to open the app to broadcast. But may be we can work on making the updater run in the background. it will periodically connect and send and recieve data

Me: ok so say it will connect every 5 minutes and update and standby

Friend: We can have a priority for outbound updates - means when your location changes, it has to be updated fast but only when you change location, second priority is for updating friends locations on the map, which can be time. So if you don't move from your place and the map is open it connects every 5 minutes to check your friends’ positions. If you move it will connect immediately and update your position. If your app is closed it updates only when your location changes.

Me: That’s good. But I think we should also consider having the time interval for outbound updating. i.e. I should be able to switch off the on location change update and say connect every one hour or 5 minutes.. For both outbound and inbound updates.

Friend: Yeah the on location change thing works well if I’m in the city. If I’m going for a long drive the connections will be faster and internet usage will be more - right?

Me: Yes

Friend: Sounds interesting. We will do this.
Enter latitude

Also, they say you should be flossing moreWell we just saved some time by not attempting to do the app. Google just added the latitude feature to the new version of the mobile map application. I can set to update my location automatically or manually and it shows me on the map. The manual update allows me to choose from options like Google map’s “my location”, manually point a location on the map or just type a location. Which means the map only helps you but never forces you to use its powers. The auto update also asks me if it should update even if the app is closed. Very nice.

Once I set my location I can invite other people from my Gmail contacts. Oh ya it also shows me who else in my contacts is already using latitude. I can quickly share my location with others who requested my location. Have granular privacy setting for each and every user. Wow.

What I didn’t like

To switch between auto and manual update I have to do multiple clicks coz it’s hidden under the privacy settings page. Should have been little more visible. Also I don’t know what the time intervals between every GPRS update are. And I can’t do anything about it. Also when I change my display pic on mobile to make it less pixelated, it passes the same image to Google talk to make it look bad on comps. But I think thats minor. I’m not complaining.

After all 'where are you' has indeed become a thing of the past!!
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