Privacy and security have grown to become very big concerns in today’s highly-connected world. With a considerable part of the world’s population owning a mobile device, it’s likely that these devices are also being used to keep track of our whereabouts, too. There has been quite some buzz about government agencies spying on calls and messages. Even private companies are keeping tabs on our locations, preferences and context for purposes of advertising.
Not everyone is highly concerned about tracking, however. Some would argue that if you don’t have anything to hide, anyway, then you should not worry. For some, it’s a matter of knowing what kind of information to share on insecure networks. For more secure communications, there are enterprise-grade platforms like Samsung KNOX or Silent Circle.
Still, tracking does have its uses. Your smartphone utilizes a mix of GPS sensors and multiple tracking platforms (like WiFi and cellular triangulation) for practical purposes like navigating with the map application and finding nearby establishments. With both Android Device Manager and Apple’s “Find My iPhone” you can find, ring and remotely wipe a mobile device from the web or another registered device. Some third-party apps like Prey also give you more functionality for a marginal cost.
These could come in handy when keeping tabs on your loved ones, too. I know there are privacy concerns, but sometimes the peace of mind and security that comes with knowing your loved ones are safe (or safely on the way) can be priceless. With Android, this can easily be done through Android Device Manager. The app is accessible both from the web interface or through a standalone Android app. While it is intended to be used for tracking your own device if it gets lost, this app can also be useful for keeping tabs on loved ones.
Register shared Google accounts
It’s simple: register a shared Google account on each of the devices you want to track, and Android does the rest. You can login from the web using this shared account, and you can then choose from among the different registered devices. If you’re logging in from an Android smartphone or tablet, simply use the account picker to select the account you have associated with these other devices.
Of course, this assumes that the devices you intend to track have an active data connection and have location services activated. And using such a system should also mean that you have the permission of the person involved — your spouse, significant other or child, perhaps.
I have found this system useful for keeping tabs on my grade-school aged kids when they’re going on field trips or sleepovers. They may not always be available to answer calls or texts, but I could at least use Android Device Manager to track their location, especially when wandering off to unknown or unwanted places would be cause for concern. For spouses or significant others, however, this might be a bit more intrusive, and it may actually be useful if you suspect infidelity — legal considerations aside! (This topic is worth yet another post, altogether.)
This is, of course, a rudimentary way of keeping track of kids, but it does work, even if within its limitations. If you want more functionality, a startup called HereO is raising $100,000 on IndieGoGo to produce GPS- and SIM-enabled smartwatches that can keep tabs on your kids. The device comes with panic alerts, places notification, tamper alert and other features. This is certainly one device I’d be interested in having out in the market.
For now, ADM does the job for me. But if there are any other great ideas, apps or devices out there, feel free to contribute through the comments or through our Mailbag.