“More than 60 percent of AT&T wireless customers are part of a family plan or multiple line account, so there’s a considerable number of our subscribers whom we believe will find this service beneficial,” said Mark Collins, vice president of Voice and Data Products for AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets.
FamilyMap is powered by Wavemarket, the American leader in cell phone-based child tracking, which white label service is already used by wireless operators Sprint, Alltel, kajeet (a U.S.-based MVNO), MTS Allstream (Canada) and Vivo (Brazil). Wavemarket is using Microsoft Virtual Earth as a component in its solution.
The service enables users to see details such as location on a map and surrounding landmarks like schools and parks. Users can also toggle between satellite and interactive street maps. Families can customize their mapping experience by assigning a name and photo to each device within their account, and can also label places they visit frequently, like “Home” or “Soccer Field.”
Through the tool’s schedule checks option, parents can receive alerts at specified times via text or e-mail. For example, parents could request a schedule check every weekday at 4 p.m. to check on their child’s location.
The service is compatible with many AT&T postpaid mobile phones with A-GPS. Compared to Sprint and Verizon’s child locator services the pricing is a bit different. In one hand Verizon Chaperone is the most expensive, costing $9.99 per month and per child. In the other hand, Sprint cut its Family Locator price by half in November 2008 (read more here), allowing the location of up to 4 phones for only $5 per month.
AT&T has been setting up several fences to make sure privacy is not at risk with this solution. First, users may locate only phones with which a billing relationship is established — for example, phones that are part of the same wireless account.
Then, all users on the account receive a text message when their phones first become locatable through AT&T FamilyMap, and those users will receive periodic reminders that their phones can be located.
Alternately, the primary account owner has the option of notifying a phone every time location information is requested. Additionally, account owners receive notification when location information for a phone not already being tracked is requested through the application, and he or she can then choose whether to allow the request.