Google Latitude gives firms food for thought

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Google Latitude gives firms food for thought

Google's Latitude location technology is unlikely to encourage wide-scale enterprise take-up in its present form, but could spark interest among organisations if its capabilities were enhanced, according to industry experts.

Latitude is touted as a way for friends to keep in touch by viewing the location of each other on Google Maps.

But the technology could be applied in a business context to monitor mobile workers or fleet vehicles, for example.

"At present you are not able to segment friends into groups, or create closed groups. If you used it as a business tool it would need to be more sophisticated and integrated with presence," Nick Jones, an analyst with Gartner, said.

"But if we were to look forward, the principles underlying Latitude have definite relevance to business."

Mike Davies, of analyst firm Ovum, suggested that Latitude could appeal to organisations as a way to monitor at-risk peripatetic workers, such as district nurses, out-of-hours GPs and social workers.

"It could be quite a useful way of tracking these people going into dangerous areas, although having to have Google Maps on all the time will cripple battery life," he said.

"We will probably see some people trying it out in the public sector and, if successful, we could see a more robustly engineered industrial strength product coming along later."

However, David Perry of mobile workforce management firm Cognito, said that there are a lot of tools already on the market which allow firms to track their mobile workforce.

For Latitude to compete it would need offline capabilities, the ability to attach job information to location details and stronger security, he advised.

Rik Ferguson, solutions architect at Trend Micro, agreed that the product is not yet robust enough for enterprise-grade deployment.

"This is a publicly available service, so there is a danger that information could be inappropriately accessed," he said.

"You are opening up risks not previously there. I would advise firms to look more at closed systems."

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