Where R U?

By June 07, 2007

Professionals have been expected to be “always on” for a long time. Now young people crave that same permanent contact whether they are on their computer or on their cell phones. As for parents, they want to keep track of their ch

ildren at all times. Here is how they can do it. Tracking the kids. At Verizon, they call it Chaperone. For $9.99 a month, parents can keep track of the family from their cell phone or PC. If they add the Child Zone feature ($19.99 a month), they can even be notified each time the child leaves a predetermined zone. Sprint calls its service Family Locator. It helps a parent or caregiver know where the carrier of an authorized cell phone is at any time. With the Safety Check feature, they can be notified that a child has reached school or any other programmed location. The $9.99 month fee includes up to 4 Sprint Nextel phones. Wherify has a similar service with handsets geared towards children (and seniors) which include GPS tracking so that parents can always locate their child. These services will only work if the phone is turned on. They raise interesting parenting and trust issues, especially as the children get older.   Loopt. Geared towards young cell phone users, this GPS-based locating service is currently available to Boost Mobile customers. For a $2.99 a month fee, subscribers can locate their friends who have agreed to be tracked on a live map displayed on their cell phones. In addition, they can receive an alert when a friend is close by. Loopt is all about facilitating real-life meetings and has been called a “social mapping service”. Helio, another mobile carrier targeting young people, offers a similar service with its Buddy Beacon. But in order to preserve the users’ privacy, they have to update their location whenever they are willing to be visible to their friends. “Synchronize your social lives” is how Helio describes this trend. Twitter. “What are you doing?” is the question Twitter members are constantly asking their friends. On Twitter’s web site or by text messaging, the questions and answers twitter back and forth like birds perched on a phone line. “Twitter allows me to broadcast to my circle of acquaintances all those life titbits which are so trivial and yet so important to the ties we create – and to receive the same titbits from the people you are important to me. We can stay in touch, and even reinforce our ties together”, writes a Swiss user of Twitter. Moblogs. Blogging directly from a cell phone or PDA is the next step in keeping one’s readers constantly updated about one’s whereabouts and adventures. Moblogs often include pictures, a great way to immerse readers in the experience that the blogger wants to share. Moblogging is the ultimate in blogging “on the fly”. Kyte is a site that combines moblogging and social networking. “You feel like you are instantly broadcasting your own life and experiences to your friends at home, and to anyone in the world who wants to join,” Walter Zai told The New York Times after using Kyte during a safari vacation in South Africa. But he admitted to being a bit overwhelmed by the instant feedback to which he would respond “I don’t really have the time to talk to you now. I have to make photos of these elephants.” While all the services above can be turned off, users seem to feel a compelling need to stay in touch, one that can easily become overwhelming or frightening. Isabelle Boucq for Atelier  

Legal mentions © L’Atelier BNP Paribas