The company is re-entering the location-based tracking market for a third time under three different migrations of the feature from Latitude, to Google+ and now to Google Maps in order to appeal to a much wider audience that doesn’t necessarily use its social media platform. Google Maps real-time sharing can work in two ways – the first is by synchronizing phone contacts with Google and authorizing individual people access to your location data, and the second is by sharing a custom URL with anyone you choose that can expire after a predetermined amount of time.
Once contacts are synchronized, location can be shared either indefinitely or for a specified period of time, including hourly. Of course, a person will be made aware that their location is shared when the GPS icon is displayed in the top right corner of her or his display.
Needless to say, real-time location sharing is one of the most battery-intensive background tasks that runs on modern smartphones and can be considered a high security risk if users are not prepared to have Google collect location history files on their servers.
One of the first useful apps to launch real-time location was Google Latitude, which launched in February 2009 and let a mobile phone user to allow certain people to view their current location. Competition followed with a more robust app called Glympse, which launched in April 2010 and used a web-based tracking API rather than requiring others to download the app. Apple then introduced a follow-up product called the “Find My Friends” app in October 2011 before Steve Jobs died. Other apps since then have included Google’s integration of Latitude into Google+, the Foursquare-based Swarm app, Connect, and Life360.
Of course, recipients will be able to see a user’s expected arrival time (ETA) once they click “share trip,” so please make sure to drive within the speed limits of your local roadways and intersections and refrain from responding to text messages asking when you will arrive for the sake of public safety. As Google says in its blog release, the answer to “where are you?” is now only a tap away.
Location sharing for Google Maps for Android and iOS will be rolling out in the coming weeks.