Google may not be at the front of the current geolocation charge, but that doesn't mean the search giant isn't interested in taing over. This week Google announced a new feature that it hopes will make users more comfortable sharing their location with Google.
The Google Location History Dashboard gives Latitude users a snapshot of where they've been. That data may just provide some utility for users (and get people more comfortable using Google's location service).
Google had the beginnings of Foursquare on its hands, but decided to go a different route in the location space. Dennis Crowley's Dodgeball pioneered the digital check-in feature that is now becoming a hot commodity in mobile.
Just a few days after shelving that service, Google decided to launch Latitude, a service that automatically follows users in the real world.
But the ambient shadow of location software hasn't caught on with users. Foursquare may have inspired the site, but user-generated check-ins with that service ensure that only preapproved location info gets sent out.
With Latitude, it works in the background whenever users turn it on, liking a cellphone homing device. As Wired put it at launch:
"While the Google name may help Latitude’s mainstream exposure, the idea of broadcasting your location still gives many people the creeps and despite Latitude’s privacy controls, for many, the creepiness an [sic] stalker-friendly aspects remain."
Broadcasting your current location to anyone who is interested may not appeal to many, but Google is hoping that analytics on location history will change that. The new Location History Dashboard tracks total miles travel and notes interesting data points. According to Google's Mobile Blog:
"If you’ve already chosen to enable Location History, the new dashboard view will try to highlight interesting trends from your existing location history, such as trips you’ve taken, places you’ve visited, time spent at home vs. out, and more. Ever wonder how much time you’ve spent at work recently compared to six months ago, or where it was that you stopped on your last road trip? Just check out Location History for some of the answers."
But it's also a small way to engage and grow Latitude's user base. From the blog:
"To try out the new dashboard yourself, enable Google Latitude in the background on your phone, turn on Google Location History, and wait a few days (up to a week) to build up enough history for the dashboard to begin showing information. This is just one interesting way you can do more with your location, but we don’t expect it to be the last. With last week’s launch of the Google Latitude API, we hope to soon see people create even more cool ways for you to choose how to use your location and location history."
Of course there's still the issue of creepiness with this new feature. From LifeHacker:
"Google assures users in its blog post announcement that Latitude location history remains an opt-in, your-eyes-only service, but we'd guess those concerned with Google's voracious hunger for data aren't going to love the idea of tracking their location at every moment. For those with more interest in statistics than fear, though, it seems like a neat tool."