Keeping Tabs: New LBS Apps Help Track Family, Friends

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Location-based services have provided users with a wide range of capabilities, from exclusive access to special coupons and deals to discovering new stores via friends’ check-ins. But recently we’ve seen a new wave of LBS focused on allowing users to track one another. These services are commonly used for one of two purposes — to track phones, or to track family members.

Tracking Lost Phones
The abundance of tracking apps available to smartphone users provide them with reassurance that if they ever happen to accidentally misplace their phone, they can quickly locate it. Once users have installed a tracking app on their phone, the location of the phone is pinpointed through the use of GPS, Wi-Fi, and cellular triangulation techniques. As GPS services come pre-installed in essentially any smartphone on the market these days, device-tracking apps are becoming increasingly popular.

If you’re an Apple fan, new location features in iOS mean that apps like Foursquare and Apple’s own Reminders can notify you when you enter or leave a geographic region. For instance, Foursquare’s new Radar feature will pop up a notification when you’re near a location — or people — that Foursquare thinks might be of interest to you. Region Monitoring isn’t new to iOS. In fact, it was part of iOS 4. But the latest incarnation has received a few new APIs and been tweaked out so that developers, including Apple, are actually using it.

Navizon is a free application which allows users to locate the live-time location of their device online, as well as track friends who have installed the app and join groups comprised of individuals based on similar interests. Free applications often provide users with basic tracking, whereas paid applications offer a much more extensive range of services. The European-based application iLocalis provides iPhone users with two forms of membership depending on the features the user wants to enable. Once a free trial has expired, users have the opportunity to pay 5 Euros to extend their basic membership for a year, or 15 Euros for the premium membership. A similar application iHound, costing $10.99 a year, offers comparable tracking services but also enables users to sound an alarm on their device if they have misplaced it, saving them from pointlessly digging under couches in a frantic search for their cherished device. These types of applications are on the lower end in terms of cost, as subscription costs can run as high as $149.99 a year for applications that provide users much more than simple GPS tracking.

Easing Parental Concerns
Worried parents can also rest assured that their children are safe by using location-based tracking devices to determine the exact location of their child. Applications such as MobiStealth, available at a range of $89.99 for the lite version to the hefty $149.99 a year subscription price mentioned above for the pro version, allow parents to channel their inner detective by going above and beyond simple tracking. Aside from being able to determine their child’s exact location as well as their location history, the app also offers voice and data components as well. MobiStealth allows parents to record phone calls made from the phone they are tracking, which are automatically uploaded to their online account and available for listen at any time, as well as view the call history including both incoming and outgoing calls. In terms of data, MobiStealth enables parents to view all emails, web history, pictures, and SMS messages on the phone. Once the tracker creates their Stealth Club account online and connects it to the devices they are tracking, the location of the devices is shown through Google Maps, providing the exact address as well as a timestamp of when the device was tracked at this location.

Add it to my bill, please
U.S. wireless carriers like Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile all offer services based on Location Labs platform. These systems use a geo-fencing concept of virtual boundries and enable you to check locations, monitor boundries and create alerts to ensure your loved ones are where they need to be when they need to be.  Best of all you can simply add them to your existing carrier billing account.

As more and more location based services and applications are introduced to the market, consumers are being offered more choice and customization to ensure that their tracking app is suited perfectly to their wants and needs. With this degree of personalization, it is safe to say that the popularity of these apps isn’t declining anytime soon.

Asif R. Khan is a veteran tech start-up, business development and marketing entrepreneur currently serving the community as founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association (The LBMA). Weekly podcaster at This Week In Location Based Marketing every Monday. Can be found at @AsifRKhan @TheLBMA on Twitter.


Street Fight Daily: 12.21.11

Street Fight Daily: 12.20.11