is a new Google Map service that is proving to be quite popular with Internet enabled cell phone users. Once installed on your phone, you can import your contacts and friends, and invite them to share locations with you. In other words, you can let your selected contacts see where you are on Google Maps. Yes, right down to your picture icon on a street map location. If your contacts accept reciprocal sharing, they can see your location and you can see theirs.
It may sound like the ultimate in fun, but not very useful. However, people are finding it easier to get together for short meetings or a cup of coffee when they find that they happen to be close to each other in their daily travels. Parents are keeping up with their children, and vice versa. Companies can track their sales or mobile service personnel, and you can keep up with your friends anywhere in the world. Let's talk about some of the features and also privacy concerns.
When someone invites another to see their location, the invitation can be accepted or not, depending on the recipient's desire. The person receiving the invitation can accept, but they do not have to reciprocate and let the other person see their location. You can also set a certain contact to view only your city-level location, rather than precisely where you may be at any time. This would work well for keeping someone informed of your travels by air for a multiple city trip.
One nice feature is the ability to tap on a contact's location icon and send them a text message or start a chat. It certainly makes it fast and easy to hit up a friend for a cup of coffee when you notice they're a block away at Starbuck's. Just tap and chat or text, so they can wait there and you can join them. If it's a strange city, you can use Google Maps directions feature to give you the best route to meet up with them.
There have been concerns about privacy issues, with one being the ability of someone to install Latitude on another's phone without them knowing it. This has been addressed by having Latitude announce its presence and the fact that it is tracking your location. Each user has total control of who they wish to allow to see their location, and can turn access on or off at will. You can temporarily hide your location from selected people as well.
All that is really nice, and could be a lot of fun as well as useful in our daily lives. But, how might Google Latitude be used in our real estate businesses?
One very powerful use of this service would be to allow the brokerage office or a friend to follow your whereabouts as you are showing property. Knowing the length of average showings, they could check on you if you stay in one spot too long. You could even map out your route ahead of time on Google Maps, and you could be contacted if you end up far outside the planned route.
Meeting the Client -
Granted, the client will need to be using Latitude as well, but its use is growing fast. Today's fast paced mobile world is bringing about fewer showings with the customers riding in your car. Many times you'll be meeting them at a home or somewhere else to lead them to homes. Families like to have their own cars for child car seats, etc. Using Latitude, they can see you on the map, and get directions right to you. You can see where they are, and be outside when they pull up.
Your Professional Network -
It could prove to be very helpful to have your best home inspectors, mortgage brokers, appraisers, and other professional contacts sharing location with you. It's usually time well-spent to chat over a cup of coffee if you happen to find yourselves a block apart in town.
Do you have active investor clients who want to know about good deals right away when you discover them? Share location with them. If you're out previewing properties, and you find a value, see if they're not too far away, send them a message and see if they want to meet you there.
Want to impress a listing prospect? You're at their home talking about your listing services, and you recommend that they might want to re-stain their front porch for better curb appeal. They wonder about the cost. You look on your phone and see one of your favorite repair people a few blocks away. A quick message, and they stop by to give an estimate.
Technology can be fun, but we need to examine it for business value as well. And this free service seems to offer some real estate business value.
Peyman Aleagha is the founder and President of RealtySoft.com. RealtySoft provides Realtors with Real Estate Web Design
(http://www.realtysoft.com), Real Estate Print Marketing and Free IDX
(http://www.realtysoft.com/freeidx.php) solutions. Find out more about RealtySoft by visiting RealtySoft.com