Posted by: Jack
Today's WSJ had a great piece on an emerging (actually here but underutilized) technology -- position reporting via cellphone. Not totally unrelated to what techno-geeks call Unified Communications (UC) , or more specifically a "presence" feature of UC. "Presence" usually refers to someone's state (are they online or offline, available for a call, or on the phone?) and it's a feature often used as a reason for UC...Now these people tracking cell services are "presence on steroids", and can open a whole new dialogue about just how available we want to, or need to, be.
By now, Sears, Fedex, and UPS drivers have gotten used to big brother; want to stop for that coffee in a rest stop by the scenic overlook? Your boss will know....extend that to friends and family, and you get the picture (well, at this stage you get a map, but a picture may be next since these phones have cameras too).
I first got exposed to this technology when phones first started arriving with GPS installed (now mandatory)about 4 years ago. A local hacker had a website (gadgeteer.org) where you could download a piece of code to report on your phone's location. At the time, my intent was to put it on my 90 year old father-in-law's phone; he annually rambles on a cross country car trip and, of course, we're always curious where he is.
Not a bad application, as long as the person using the phone knows about it. Last month, Sprint rolled out a similar service for family plans, and I quickly signed up my teen and college age children. The divergence of reaction was interesting. When I warned them I was about to try the new service out (they would have access to my location as well), one overreacted with "you are invading my privacy!!". The other was ho-hum about it. She only raised an eyebrow when told by her brother (wrongly) that I could also read her instant messages using the same technology. After a quick "well that's another story" reaction, she finally said she didn't care about that as well; she was confident that after reading a few IMs that she sends to boys that I would quickly lose interest. No doubt very true.
It amazed me how fast cell phones and IM replaced pagers, putting a whole business sector out to pasture. Will this technology, already available, make most employees trackable like delivery men? Only on-call ones? Or maybe it should be limited to high value employees, like NY Governors, or US Presidents. Then again, maybe not. Ooops, I forgot; they already have a GPS enabled cell phone....