Google is adding check-ins to its Latitude location service, but it’s taking the check-in game to the next level. Latitude’s persistent location feature will allow users to check-in automatically at certain locations.
Google Latitude has allowed its 10 million users to see on a map approximately where their friends are. But until now, it provided no 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.
This is rather ho-hum news, considering so many other check-in services do much the same thing. But where things get interesting is that Google will allow users to automatically check themselves in to specific locations, without having to whip out their phone. 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.
As I wrote about before, persistent location can also be good for geo-fencing and delivering local coupons. 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. 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 this is increasingly the way location services will try to work over time.
Latitude will also provide a notification reminder to check into a location. For some power users, this might help keep them checking in. But this could also be annoying on a Friday night getting barraged by notifications as you move around town. The Latitude update will appear first on Google Maps 5.1 for Android and will eventually make its way to the iPhone in the coming months.
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