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Can 'Find my Phone' Help Find You Help?

April 27, 2016

This really happened: A woman in California crashed off a ravine. She was reported missing by her family. Neither her cell phone carrier nor her On-Star service could accurately track her location.

She was found alive 19 hours later when a police officer was able to access her iPad to enable a smartphone app simply called, Find My Phone (or Find my iPhone).

Why Geo-locating Technology Can Help You in An Accident

Geo-locating capabilities are not new, but have become more rampant in social media, smartphone apps and mobile devices, as well as other innovations over the past several years. It’s a two-pronged technology: geo-locating functionality both reports your location and/or establishes a relationship between your location and the location of other sites, such as hotels and restaurants.

How Find my Phone Works

As far as the consumer is concerned, the technology behind Find my Phone is fairly simple from the consumer’s perspective. After you install the free app, or Find my iPhone, for example, you’ll need to sync it up with your Apple ID to prove you’re the owner of the phone. After doing so, you’ll be able to locate your phone on a map. You also gain access to a number of other features: you can remotely lock it, play a sound, display a message and even erase all the data on the phone. These capabilities not only help you find a lost phone, but to contact anyone who may have recovered (or even stolen) your phone. The app even comes with a feature to track your phone’s remaining battery life.

Criticisms of Find my Phone

There are some “big brother” concerns with geo-locating technology – and the capability is a bit of divisive issue among those who believe in and fight for privacy rights. Who should have control of the technology? How can you be sure you’re not broadcasting – or someone is not tracking – your location when you’re not looking to share it? These are just a few of the questions that are confronting the innovation.

Other geo-locating services and apps

Find my Phone is far from the only geo-locating app available. Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media site can approximate your phone’s location – with your permission – but lack the precision of Find my Phone. On-Star is a service that’s popular for helping lost motorists orient themselves, assisting drivers accident response, and even locating vehicles suspected of being involved with accidents and having an unresponsive driver. Additionally, in very clearly outlined emergency scenarios – including when a 911 call is placed from a phone or there is a missing person case – a carrier can help determine the location of a phone, and potentially its owner, by using a complicated process called Assisted GPS. This involves tracking your phone’s GPS chip and using cell site triangulation to hone in on a specific location.

Today, Find my Phone is in the headlines because it helped to save the life of a driver by fluke and solid police work more than anything else. The evolution of geo-location technology, and the role it may play in accident response and missing person location, is still up in the air. For now, it’s simply there to help us find our phones, restaurants, hotels and more.

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