GeoTagging the Next Step: ContextWatcher

While exploring the Yahoo Maps Flicker plugin in my recent geotagging experiments, I figured out that it can also show pictures other people have
uploaded in the neighborhood. Amazing how many pictures have already been taken even in small villages. I wonder if there is a
spot on earth left that has not yet been photographed with a digital camera or
camera phone and uploaded to the web?

When looking at photos taken by others close to a picture I had taken by I stumbled over a picture taken by Thomas Wagner who works for DoCoMo Labs Europe. Looks like they are working on an S60 Python program called ContextWatcher
for quite some time now and which they offer for downloading. The
program integrates information such as GPS, cell ID, body data, activities, visual data (e.g. 1D bar codes of books). Here’s the
description form their website:

The ContextWatcher is a mobile application developed in Python, and running on Nokia Series 60 phones.
Its aim is to make it easy for an end-user to automatically record, store, and use context information,
e.g. for personalization purposes, as input parameter to information services, or to share with family,
friends, colleagues or other relations, or just to log them for future use or to perform statistics on
your own life. E.g., it can be used to create automatic context bits for your own blog, so that your friends
can easily see what you have been doing the last days, including a summary of the pictures you have made.

Pretty powerful stuff and I think a lot of these things will become mainstream once tightly integrated into phones.

GeoTagging Revisited

I’ve found a lot of uses for my Bluetooth GPS receiver in the past. Beginning with a Python project to track network coverage and display it in Google Earth, GeoTagging became the next logical thing to look at and it’s clearly going to be a cool camera phone application once the GPS receivers are built in and geotagging is tightly integrated into the camera experience.

While I often use GPS these days together with Nokia Maps (see here and here) I haven’t used GeoTagging a lot when taking pictures for the simple reason that it wasn’t tightly integrated into my N70 and N93 and I found it not practicable to do an extra manual step after taking a picture to geotag it. Revisiting the topic a year later it looks like this important issue has now been fixed as well.

Shozu’s GPS GeoTagging

Encouraged by one of the comments left in a previous post I updated Shozu (a program to upload pictures from a camera phone to Flickr and other sites) as the latest version for my N93 supports external GPS receivers for automatic geotagging of pictures. A guide to get started from scratch can be found at AvecMobile.

After activating the GPS option in Shozu, it now automatically contacts my Bluetooth GPS receiver after taking a picture. While doing this, Shozu runs transparently in the background. It also works when having the Shozu query option disabled which asks if the picture just taken should be uploaded to Flickr.

Once the GPS receiver has a fix, the current position is saved in three tags together with the picture. When uploading such a geotagged picture to Flickr, the coordinates are detected and can then be used on the Flickr page to automatically show the location the picture was taken at in Yahoo Maps. If you prefer Google Earth for visualization, copy the coordinates from the lower right part of the Yahoo Maps splash screen and paste them into the "Location Box" of Google Earth. Works perfectly! Here’s a link to the one of my pictures that have been automatically geotagged by the phone. The link to the map can be found among the "additional information" on the right side of the Flickr page.

To see what happens when I don’t have my GPS receiver with me when taking a picture I switched it off and took another picture. Shozu then tries to contact the receiver via Bluetooth twice over a time of maybe 60 seconds before giving up. That’s good in case you forget to switch on the receiver before taking the picture.

Room for improvements

Still there are two areas of improvement: First, Shozu gives up too quickly when the GPS receiver can’t get an immediate fix. If it takes longer than about 45 seconds to get a fix, which happens especially after the GPS receiver was switched off for some time, Shozu disconnects from the GPS device and doesn’t save geotaggs. Also, Shozu adds the GPS co-ordinates in it’s own database, which works for Flickr, but it does not seem to include them in the EXIF information of the images. I checked by using Windows XP’s file explorer, Exifer, Exif Pilot and Nokia’s Lifeblog, but non of them shows any GPS information.

Sony’s GPS Stick

A lot of people still prefer to take digital camera with them which surely still has it’s advantages. For geotagging such pictures as well Sony’s GPS stick might come in handy. Completely autonomous it records the user’s location during the day and a software for the PC then combines the location information with the pictures once downloaded to the PC. I like the idea but I have to admit it wouldn’t work for me as I’ve so become used to uploading pictures to Flickr directly from the camera phone. For me it has the advantage that I can do it right away when I take the picture or shortly afterwards and not when I come back home in the evening and am already tired.