Keeping track of your family via GPS isn’t a new idea. Remember the tracking device for your teen’s car that could tell you where they are and even how fast they were driving? Mobile phones have had GPS capabilities for about 10 years now , but the relatively recent proliferation of smartphones throughout every generation of the household has made keeping tabs on everyone in the family an affordable reality. Google has just introduced a new app called Trusted Contacts which essentially allows your phone to transmit your location to other trusted individuals (with their own Android devices), who can, in turn, grant you access to keep an eye their locations.
Our version of the “Weasley Clock” or foreshadow of “Big Brother”?
In case you’re not a fan of young wizards with unruly hair, the clock mentioned above allowed the fictional Weasley family to keep track of all members of the household via clockwork hands that pointed out the whereabouts of any given family member at any given time. In this particular case, our real world technology seems to be superior to Rowling’s fantastical device in that we can know in much more detail where our loved ones are, even if the app request is ignored or the phone is offline. In these two cases, if the phone and GPS are operational, the app will report in after a set amount of time, in case the owner is unable to respond or just distracted (as we all often are!), and if the phone is offline, it will report the last known location. Saying that this could be useful in an emergency situation is something of an understatement, especially for helicopter dads (like yours truly) who live in an area prone to unpredictable natural disasters. It could also be a useful trust building tool for parents fretting about teenagers testing the limits of their expanding freedoms, or for grown children to keep a discrete eye on aging parents who may be struggling with mental issues. As is always the case, how we use the technology will make the difference between an Orwellian one or something with more magic and compassion.
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net