Google Latitude disappoints

Google Maps We went out on Te Moana yesterday to check out the Sydney to Gold Coast fleet as they passed Broken Bay. It was a gorgeous day apart from the fact that there was no wind. So we parked ourselves near the race rhumb line, killed the Volvos and just waited for the fleet to crawl towards us.

I kept myself entertained playing with various yacht tracking technologies. I’m eagerly awaiting the day when we can use ‘off the shelf’ economical systems to track yachts, rather than clunky, expensive satellite transponders or cheap but error prone manual systems.

Every since the 2nd generation iPhone was launched last year, users can determine their location through the built-in GPS (the blue dot marks our position off the coast on the Google Maps iPhone display),

Recently, Google has been promoting its “Latitude” service, where you can share your location with your friends. This works by allowing your phone to transmit its location to the Google service, but…

Google LatitudeThere are two ways to determine where a mobile phone (and its user) is located, either by determining which cell tower the mobile phone is using (and triangulating between them) or by using  the phone’s built-in GPS, if it has one.

Google announced the iPhone version of Latitude last week, so I was keen to try it out on the boat. Could we track boats by simply having an iPhone on board? The answer is no on two counts.

Firstly, positions are only taken while the Latitude page on the phone is open (it is not kept up to date when doing something else with the iPhone or it’s asleep).

Even more challenging is that it doesn’t seem to be using the built in GPS, but insists that we’re on land near a cell tower….. Ahoy Google, Ahoy Apple, not good enough.

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