Google has added check-ins to its Latitude location service. “Oh big deal,” you say, “there’s a half dozen other check-in services out there.” True, but count on Google to come up with some inspired twists to a familiar idea.
Most location services require you to manually load up their apps, wait for the GPS fix to come in, and then make you jump through a couple more hoops just to share that information or log it on your profile. It’s not a huge hassle, or people wouldn’t do it, but what if it were automatic? That’s what Google’s persistent location feature will allow. Users can check-in automatically at certain locations. (For the tech-inclined, you can read about it on their blog here.)
Google Latitude has allowed its 10 million users to see on a map approximately where their friends are. But it never provided a way for a user to pinpoint his own location with a check-in, a la Foursquare and others. Now users will be able not only to broadcast their exact location to their friends on Latitude but also to publicly share their check-ins through their Google+ Profile. They’ll also be able to garner “VIP” and “Guru” status based on the number of their check-ins as well, for different tiers of discounts or rewards.
All of these features seem standard, but when integrated with the aforementioned persistent location feature, you can see how things might be very different indeed. If you can just check a box on your phone, sign up for a service, and start getting discounts to places you already go all the time, all without having to do anything yourself, it’s a big win. Now, this won’t work for every location, just places that a user has pre-identified. The service will also automatically check people out, so your friends will know you’ve finally left work, for example. Building off Latitude’s persistent background location feature, this shows how constant tracking can enhance location-based services and battle issues like check-in fatigue. And it’s another sign that Google is increasingly focusing on local and mobile.
While it’s true that Latitude isn’t the first check-in service to use background location (Loopt uses it to notify people when a select group of friends are nearby. And Future Check-in, an iPhone app, also enabled automatic Foursquare check-ins last year.), that Google brand means a heck of a lot to users when it comes to privacy concerns. As we get more comfortable with apps tracking our whereabouts — within certain limits — we’re going to increasingly share more about ourselves and obtain more localized information and discounts. Services like Latitude and others have to tread carefully to avoid privacy concerns, but a big Google presence should mollify most (certainly not all) user’s fears over sharing private information.
If you want to talk about how your business could best take advantage of Google Latitude, give Phoenix Synergy a call for a free consultation.