50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers

Soccer-ball robots!

It’s 10 o’clock. Do you know where your children’s cell phones are?

Here’s yet more evidence that location-based technology is the New Big Thing. Alcatel has just announced “Guardian Angel” — an application that lets parents track where their children are, all day long, by locating their mobile phones:

It will send text alerts to their mobile phone if the child deviates too far from that route or takes too long getting there.

Made by French mobile firm Alcatel, the system takes advantage of the existing mobile phone network to locate a child’s whereabouts rather than using global positioning systems like some location-based services.

Parents need simply follow the usual route a child takes to and from school and at three-minute intervals press a button to map out the route.

What I’m waiting for are the first examples of location-based hacking. A central assumption here is that your cell phone is always with you. But what if you actively leave it somewhere else, to disguise your location? Apparently, some disgruntled employees in Hong Kong — where The Pinpoint Company already tracks the location of workers and reports it to their bosses — have begun thinking of ways to mess with the system.

Think of it this way: Want to go see a movie during work hours? Leave your work mobile-phone at your desk. Set it to forward all calls to your personal mobile phone. Then go see a movie, or walk in the park, or go get shitcanned in a bar at 1 in the afternoon. Your boss will smugly check his monitoring screen, see that you’re at your desk, and conclude that all is well. If he calls you, it’ll route to your personal mobile phone, and you can pick it up and say, yeah, sure, I’m right here at my desk. What’s up? Then order another pint.

Or even better yet — try the trick that those hackers in Amsterdam did with a GPS. They tracked themselves they wandered through the streets of the city, “drawing” out figures with their movements. (Click here to see a pigeon they drew!) So, if you’re a teenager annoyed that your parents are watching you, do a few walks around the neighborhood to subtly spell out phrases like “get lost” or “loser”.

(This one comes via Smart Mobs!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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