Cellphone tracking gives you peace of mind
Did your kids make it to school OK? Is your spouse late because of traffic, or was there an accident? These kinds of worries can plague you. But new tracking tools can put your mind at ease.
There are plenty of GPS gadgets that will help you track your family. But, using a cellphone is your best bet. You won’t need to invest in a new gadget. And, these days, nobody goes anywhere without their phone.
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Start with your cellular provider
Most major cellular providers offer tracking services. Verizon offers Chaperone. AT&T’s service is called FamilyMap, while Sprint’s is Family Locator.
You’ll pay a small monthly fee for the privilege. This is usually between $5 and $10 per phone tracked.
These services use a phone’s built-in GPS chip to determine location. Of course, not all phones have a GPS chip. Or, GPS signals can be spotty.
In that case, the services can use cellular towers to triangulate a user’s location. This is less accurate than GPS. But even GPS won’t give you pinpoint accuracy.
Also worth noting, some phones with GPS chips always use triangulation. AT&T’s service, for example, uses triangulation with the iPhone.
You can use your phone or PC to view family members’ locations. They are plotted on a map for easy viewing.
You’ll also find other nice features. For example, Verizon lets you set up Child Zones. You’ll be notified when your child enters or leaves one of these zones. Sprint and AT&T let you schedule alerts. You’ll receive location information on a schedule you set.
Sprint says its service works on all its phones. It also works on Nextel phones. However, in some cases, older phones are incompatible. AT&T’s service should work on all of its phones. Verizon’s service works on select phones.
Try Google Latitude
The person you want to track may have a smart phone. In that case, you don’t necessarily need to pay for tracking. Google Latitude will do the work for you.
Google Latitude is designed to make it easy to find nearby friends. But it can also be used as a safety tool.
Latitude works on the iPhone and Google’s Android smart phones. It also works on most BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Symbian S60 phones. It also works on laptops.
With some phones, you download the app. On others, like the iPhone, you access it via the Web browser.
With Latitude, you must invite someone to track you. And you can control how much information you share. You can do this on a person-by-person basis.
Latitude lets you specify your location manually. The app also includes a tool for communicating with your family and friends.
Users can remove or disable apps installed on phones. If you’re tracking a child or teen, use your provider’s tools. But adults will appreciate the ability to set boundaries.
Services aren’t perfect
Cellphone tracking is a valuable tool. It will certainly put your mind at ease. And, in an emergency, it can lead you directly to your loved one.
That said, cellphone tracking isn’t perfect. You need to remember that you’re tracking a phone, not a person. Phones get lost and stolen every day.
Also, the tracking only works if the phone is turned on. It won’t help you if the phone’s battery dies — or if your teen turns off the phone.
Finally, one last reminder. Providers have security protections for location-tracking services. They prevent you from using their services on unwitting individuals. But there are always ways to circumvent privacy protections.
You’re free to track your underage children. But get permission before tracking others. You don’t want to violate anyone’s privacy or break the law.
Kim Komando hosts the nation’s largest talk radio show about computers and the Internet. To get the podcast or find the station nearest you, visit www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim’s free e-mail newsletters, sign up at www.komando.com/newsletters. Contact her at email@example.com.