Wondering if your service technician has reached a customer site? Want to find out if your friend is in the area for a quick 10 a.m. coffee break? Google’s latest application, Latitude, helps you keep tabs on everyone in your network by using your smart phone or laptop GPS, Wi-Fi and mobile phone signals to place you and your contact’s location on a map.
Here are the top nine ways you can use Google Latitude at work.
by Michelle MacLeod, ITBusiness.ca
Knowing the precise location of staff when they are out of the office has never been easier. Managers can keep an eye on employees on the road, such as a delivery truck driver, who may be stuck in a traffic jam. Co-workers can also help one another out by noting traffic delays and text messaging suggestions for an alternate route. Latitude also helps you keep track of employees who travel from office to office or city to city a lot. Need to get in contact with a co-worker and aren’t sure at which office to reach him? Check Latitude and avoid making several calls to separate offices. In inclement weather, managers can check on the location of their reports to know if they’re likely to get to the office on time.
Many privacy advocates are arguing Google Latitude goes too far in its potential to track users and keep an eye on them at all times.
However, employees must consent to using the program and are able to choose which of their contacts they make their location information accessible to. All users can select to turn off the tracking device at any time, as well as manually enter the location without using GPS. So unless he or she is very absent-minded, tracking a truant employee with Latitude is going to be rather tough.
You can take your online social network offline by using Google Latitude to find friends, followers, or contacts in your vicinity. Latitude also provides an easy option for instant messaging, e-mailing, or text messaging someone to arrange a meeting.
This could be useful for business professionals who want to kill time at a train station or airport, or users with some spare time for a coffee break or extended lunch. By alerting you that contacts are nearby and displaying their exact location on a map, Latitude increases the likelihood of your meeting up with them to discuss a new project, business deal or job opportunity.
The other nice thing Google Latitude offers is directions on how to find your contacts. If you notice that your friend is at a nearby coffee shop but aren’t sure exactly how to get there, Google Latitude will provide you directions.
Latitude is a useful tool for any company with fleets on the ground… the obvious are snow removal trucks, garbage trucks or delivery vans.
But small businesses focused on IT repairs or help desk services, such as Geek Squad, could also use Google Latitude to find out where their vehicles are and who is closest to the customer. This would speed up customer service and improve efficiencies within the company, reducing gas costs and time spent on the road.
Using Latitude for dispatch purposes is nothing new. GPS companies have been taking advantage of this service for years by selling tools that track, not just delivery vans, but also speed and mileage – and calculate optimal travel routes.
However, Latitude’s main advantage is that it is free.
For small companies that cannot afford costly GPS programs, especially during today’s economic crisis, Latitude is a great free alternative.
Replacing lost or stolen supplies can be very costly for many organizations. Use Latitude to help keep track of office equipment, by keeping GPS on while travelling.
Employees who have a wild night out and may forget where they left their smart phone – taxi, restaurant, bar, friend’s house – can quickly determine where their phone is by checking on Google Maps.
Was your laptop left on and in use when stolen? Google Latitude could help you find your computer and recover your office’s important files by using GPS and Wi-Fi signals to track the thief. How many criminals will think to check Google Latitude once they grab your Blackberry and run?
At the moment, Google is not saying they are using stored information on your location for any purpose. But Google could potentially make a lot of money by allowing advertisers to capitalize on their knowledge of customer whereabouts.
Imagine knowing when potential clients are standing in a Best Buy or Future Shop and being able to send a message directly to their handheld device, advertising a sale on your software or hardware. There are also possibilities for sending coupons or special discount offers to people who you know are in your store or are near your products.
Businesses willing to embrace the new Google Latitude tool to track employees, products and customers in a positive – rather than intrusive – way stand to benefit.
To find out more about Google Latitude, and its strengths and weaknesses, read Google Latitude – a free and fabulous tracking service if you aren’t paranoid about privacy.