Smartphone security has become an increasingly hot topic of late. Perhaps in response, Google has been expanding Android's remote management capabilities. In August, it introduced the Android Device Manager, which enables users to locate misplaced devices. This website allows you to make registered devices ring at full volume to see if they're nearby. Devices that are further afield can be tracked with Google Maps.
If you're worried that your device has fallen into the wrong hands, there are a couple of options. You can wipe it remotely, erasing all user data from the device, or you can lock down the device with a new PIN. The remote wipe functionality has been around since August, but the remote locking feature is new. Android Police discovered it yesterday, even though Google hasn't said a peep about it.
Android users can access their devices' remote management preferences through Google Settings. Remote location is enabled by default on my Galaxy Nexus, while remote wiping and locking require opting in. Since devices can be managed remotely with little more than a web browser and Google account password, that's probably a smart default configuration. Enabling remote locking and wiping makes devices vulnerable if your Google password is compromised.
Although these features are relatively new to Android, they've been available on iOS for quite some time. This iCloud remote management tutorial is nearly two years old. Better late than never, I guess. Maybe that's why Google hasn't made too big of a fuss about the new features.