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Those using the tool will be able to see exactly where their contacts are on a detailed map, using their own phone or computer, and then watch as they move along streets. However, the launch has raised concerns about security. It is expected that the feature, called Latitude, will prove popular with parents who want to keep tabs on the whereabouts of their children without having to call them, and with groups of friends trying to meet in busy city centres or at musical festivals. The system could help find people who have become lost in an unfamiliar location, or even put an end to the cries of "I'm on the train" from commuters who want their spouses to start cooking dinner. Google claims it has developed the software in order to answer the question most commonly asked by one mobile phone user to another: "Where are you?" Hugo Barra, group product manager for Google Mobile, said: "We believe this is the kind of technology that will allow people to meet up more spontaneously with people they happen to be around." Latitude plots the position of mobile users by finding out which phone masts or wireless internet hotspots they are close to. This technique, known as triangulation, has long been possible and is used in court cases to place a defendant at the scene of a crime.

Anyone who signs up to the service will be able to use the Google Maps application on their phone to see an icon representing themselves and their position on a map of the nearby area. They can write a "status update" to tell the world what they are doing. They can then invite other people in their contacts book to join in, and if they agree the user will also be able to see their friend's whereabouts on the map. Clicking on the friend's icon will allow a user to call them, or send an email or text message. The service can even provide directions to help mobile users navigate their way through the streets to meet their friends. ( www.telegraph.co.uk )


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