Google has rolled out a new tracking app that for once is not all about delivering targeted web advertisements to people.
Rather, the company's new 'Trusted Contacts' is a personal safety application that lets users share their location information with loved ones so they can be quickly located in an emergency.
The app works even when it is offline and is currently available to Android users who can download it from Google Play Store. Google will release an iOS version of the app as well, but has not said when it plans to do so.
People who download the application can assign "trusted" status to individuals they wish to share location information with, such as family and close friends.
Trusted contacts, according to Google will be able to see that individual's activity status. For instance, the app will let them know if the individual was recently active online or had moved physically from one location to another. The idea is to give others a way to quickly verify if someone is okay, in case the need for it ever arises.
"If you find yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe, you can share your actual location with your trusted contacts," said Minh Nguyen, a Google software engineer announcing the new service on the company's Keyword blog. "And if your trusted contacts are really worried about you, they can request to see your location."
Nguyen offered two scenarios where such a capability would be useful. One example is of a hiker who gets lost in an area with no cell phone service and needs help to get back on the right trail. If the hiker doesn't turn up for a scheduled appointment, a trusted contact can ask to get a location reading to quickly verify the hikers location and summon help and summon help if necessary.
The other scenario is of an individual walking home alone in the dark and wants to notify a contact about his or her whereabouts. In such a situation, the contact would be able to track the individual's movement all the way home or to a safe location.
For times when users want to maintain privacy, the app allows users to turn on or turn off their location information or change their list of trusted contacts. The app allows a user to deny requests from a trusted contact to share his or her location information. However, if a user is unable to or does not respond to a location request in a reasonable time, the app will automatically share the user's location data.
Google's Trusted Contacts joins a slew of other personal safety apps that are already available to Android and iPhone users, some for free and others for a price.
One example is Companion, a free app that allows users to request a friend or a family member to keep an eye on them via GPS location tracking as they walk or ride to a particular destination. The app packs multiple features including one that lets the user instantly alert police in an emergency.
Another app that is available for free download to both Android and iOS users is bSafe that allows users to ask trusted contacts to walk them home virtually or to set alarms that go off automatically if the user does not check into a particular location by a specific time.