Wednesday, May 31, 2006

db75, Nokia, Bluetooth, Windows Mobile

This blog is a real find. If you are into LBS, Windows Mobile, Ajax, Ruby and all the cool development pathways ahead, just dive deep into db75.com. A great blog. Its author developed a neat package for Symbian/Nokia's that reads data from a Bluetooth GPS receiver partnering with either a Nokia phone or Windows Mobile based devices. Released two years ago it only shows how savvy is his perspective of the market.

At this point I begin to wonder what should I get myself. I do like Windows Phones because touch screens and lots of colors and good resolution are definite pluses. Symbian's OS in the other hand is a great contender but Nokia is the only way inside the States for their stuff.

Well, we always got Java and J2ME to get out of these traps.

Great material, lots still to read.

WirelessMon V2 build 1000, 2nd attempt

In a second, deeper attempt quite a few bugs got uncovered from the current version of WirelessMon, build 1000. (Maybe I should try a new build which might have happened already in their build cycle).

I tried to adjust a map using the directions from this page. In fact, the idea of creating a "Wireless Coverage Map" using GPS and AP data is the whole point behind the Professional version of this product. So, for now $50 is the price ticket on this one.

Hexagons

One thing you will need to figure out is the size of an hexagon for a given map resolution. If you are using Level 5 Topo from USGS (1:24,000) for example that translates in one inch of map for each 2,000 feet of landscape. So, do the math or go visual.

Samples can be taken automatically and placed as colored hexagons over the map (you can also control their transparency). The greenest the strongest. Red indicates low power signal.

Map calibration is always tricky and here this is no exception. For example, if you hit the Set Point button and then try to move the map at their slide bars, notice how the cross icon in the mouse is gone. So, move the map to position before you hit the Set Point button.

Things like that make your life harder and people don't go for hard. Hard to take in, I know. In another point I got a value outside the 180/-180 range in the longitude field and only got rid of it using -1 which seemed to be the only valid amount I could get accepted.

Another thing to notice is that you need to manually add the AP's you want to see displayed. That also should be made automatic within a given interval, like the one used for Automatic Sampling. My 10 cents for v2.5.

QA works

WirelessMon 2.0 is an improvement over previous products that I've seen around, but still got a good fieldtest to run and improvements to add, for example why display the corresponding lon/lat of every single pixel when you are moving the mouse around the map? That makes anyone dizzy. Show only every nth whatever. Make it easier in the eyes. They get tired fast.

In general, a good improvement for a new release. Keep it up, take it easy and improve QA because it shows.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Passmark: Professional Wireless Monitor

If you are looking into wireless traffic analysis software check WirelessMon V2 by PassMark, which got acquired recently by the security giant, RSA. For simple things like checking if a connection is showing a lot more package errors while receiving data than you would have originally thought. Or for a through checkup of a wireless access point signal.

Maybe you are wondering if some wireless phone at the same 2,400Gz range isnt't throwing your packets around, or if there is some interference from another wi-fi at close range.

Trivial or not, you can check them out with the evaluation copy of the Professional version which can be used for 30 days. Some features are disabled. But the Professional version 2.0 adds support for GPS and a Map tab where you can display an image. Like of a topographical map for a given region.

Set your GPS connection at the General Options dialog. After that you can obtain your current position for map calibration. You can set two points on a image by first clicking the Set Point 1 button and then pointing the mouse in the location on the map that corresponds to your current position. You can also type coordinates by hand.

Among the features provided by WirelessMon you will find the ability to log the data obtained through its scanning:

Index,Time,Percentage(%),Strength(db)
0,04:11:41:515 31-May-2006,18,-83,36.986718,-121.933305

...

10,04:11:56:515 31-May-2006,22,-80,36.986718,-121.933305

By default the app opens always on top and maximized so you need to remove the setting and move it around and then resize it manually. Bit too much work.

The product offers professional looking graphs of each available network adapter and wireless access point tracked. You can select among signal strength (% or db) and time, receive and send rates. You can also check all the network properties for the connection on the IP Connection tab.

You can use an access point icon to draw their location on a map. The product uses hexagons to show the signal strength of a given AP. The combined signals of all AP's in an area will indicate which region has the best possible signal. Finally, the Statistics tab gives you just that, tons of data about averages of the current connection throughput.

The standard edition costs US$19 and the Professional US$49. Passmark website lists the two features missing in the Standard edition:

  • "No GPS: GPS coordinates are not supported and cannot be used for logging or creating a signal strength map
  • "No signal strength map: The map tab and options are disabled so a signal strength map can not be created, saved or printed."
Conclusion

No GPS in the Standard package is a bit harsh, but after trying equivalent packages on PDA's without much success, a Windows based version with a good feature set like this one and professional looking job seems like a good value, at least until proof in contrary.

USGS Menlo Park Open House

It will be this weekend June 3rd and 4th from 10 am to 4 pm. Check the announcement here and the Open House webpage. Hard not to find something to check from the exhibits list like the "Flythrough of San Andreas Fault System", or "Geowall: 3-D Geologic Mapping in the Bay Area".

Sounds like fun.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Non Sequitur GPS strip

[Update: You need to subscribe to the site to see old strips...] Just like this weekend...?

Friday, May 26, 2006

3D Maps, Blog, IP-based Location

Clearing the garage I found this article from CNet in the "read later" pile. It points to Croquet, a 3D Open Source development framework and to the possible ways the metaverse world can come to light to augment reality, wow.

Tracking down the article I looked up "3D maps" and came across 3pointD.com which got enough stimulus to blow quite a few neurons around the room.

Among the cool stuff 3pointD.com has been talking about, there was the IP-based Geolocation work from James Coster. It uses IP2Location as its IP database. But as James mentioned in the page where he explains his work in great detail, the precision is a bit off but a pretty interesting approach, nonethless.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Blackberry and GPS

Check this site for a list of compatible models and GPS related products available for the Blackberry. One of them is Naggie, a free (for now) application that will popup reminders based on your current location.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Google Earth with GPS: Earth Explorer?

I was just trying another Google Earth GPS support module available here when I realized that GE should have a way to handle the data by itself. There are at least half a dozen packages using which seems the only available way which is working through KML imports.

Google does give it to you when you pay an extra US$20 per year (like I did with the original Keyhole Pro) by activating Google Earth Plus.

With the upgrade you get a working GPS dialog (but not on the Mac) and can try to connect to a Garmin or Magellan receiver. Not all models are supported in fact based on the messages from the BBS Forum only old models are suppported.

(Is that because Google decided not to upgrade the GPS support code introduced by the time of the original Keyhole team? Guessing here, but does look like it. Why would they do it now that Volks is probably paying for its development?)

But reading those messages it doesn't look too promising to fork twenty bucks to try it out. And why not have a NMEA 0183 option available if you are supporting it?

Earth Explorer

nmeage, the KML workaround code couldn't get a hold of the GPS stream from the Bluetooth connection and that wasn't too fun. I remembered that Earth Explorer from Mother Earth was still installed and tried to find if it had GPS support. But no, neat interface but no GPS anywhere to be seen.

Earth Explorer does have a clean interface, you can't zoom down much with the trial version and you won't get photos if you do, but Digital Elevation Models (DEM) with 3D maps with 1 km resolution (not the higher 3-arc second data which is better, with approximatelly 90 meters resolution).

Is this the same DEM data used to create the terrain in a GE photo plane? Anyway, if you want to give it a try, prices of Earth Explorer start at $39.95 and in its Version 4.0 it runs on MacOSX and Windows.

You can double-click on a country name and get there, or city. There is a whole toolbar for you to mess with. It would be cool if the developers could add a filter of cities by country, instead of showing all at once.

If you add GPS support (NMEA Sentences) to it, things will get a lot better, specially because you can have the DEM files already loaded without the need for a working wireless connection to a server somewhere else.

Memorial Weekend News Jam

Wow, busy day on the news cycle probably because of the long weekend ahead where everyone and their dogs will be heading somewhere and if you will be moving in a car or something else, GPS makers & services want to get a piece of your action. So let's break this down into some categories:

New Gadgets

Apple and Nike paired up to combine footwear and the iPod Nano on a sport action package. No GPS on this one, but they might add it sometime in the future. Go with the Garmin ForeRunner for that. For the Apple package you still need to wait a couple of months to put your hands on one. According to BusinessWeek:

"The iPod will also keep track of the duration, distance, and other information on each run. The data could then be uploaded to a Mac or PC, and from there to a Nike Web site called Nikeplus.com, where users can track progress, set goals, and share results"

Polaroid is coming up with an interesting gadget, the MGX-550 combines a GPS receiver, LCD touch screen and a DVD player that you can use to load and view maps or listen to music (through your FM radio) and watch movies. Not sure if I would need one of these but it is an interesting gadget from what used to be a photo camera manufacturer. But why not a GPS Camera instead? First seen at Digital Lifestyle.

CNet talks about a British research for a safer car that can make you slow down while on the road.

For a bigger adventure fly a Pixy Camera Plane equipped with GPS to take some cool pictures.

New Services

Rand McNally is launching MONA (Mobile Navigator) a turn-by-turn Java app for Motorola phones equipped with GPS receivers for US$9.99 a month.

Sprint is offering a kid locator service developed by WaveMarket which also offers other LBS products.

And LBS is going after the retail market thanks to the work of India-based companies like ActiveMedia.

Community

DailyRecord.com ran an article on how GPS is being used to help blind people go about their lives navigating safely with help of digital maps and voice guidance. For product information check Sendero Group, Humanware and Freedom Scientific.

GPS also being used to track mosquitos in Ada County, Boise, Idaho which is concerned about controlling the expansion of West Nile virus.

Firefighters from Hershey, Lebanon County, Pensilvania want GPS to help pinpoint the location of fires and resources quickly.

Boy Scouts are getting free SkyScouts donated by Celestron to play with. SkyScout is a neat gadget equipped with GPS that tells you which star or celestial object you are pointing to. A mobile planetarium.

USGS and NOAA are celebrating the 50th aniversary of Geomagnetic Research monitoring in real-time Earth's magnetic field and running NOAA's GPS stations. All this is pretty crucial to GPS operation:
"This is especially true during so-called ‘magnetic storms’. Because the ionosphere is heated and distorted during storms, long-range radio communication, which relies on sub-ionospheric reflection, can be difficult or impossible and global-positioning systems (GPS), which relies on radio transmission through the ionosphere, can be degraded."
Business

TeleAtlas expands presence in Mexico by acquiring map data for that region.

Inrix, a Microsoft spin-off wants to help you avoid traffic jams using Bayesian models:
"Inrix's proprietary Traffic Fusion Engine incorporates the power of advanced Bayesian analytics to combine GPS probe data with hundreds of other market-specific data sources enabling the most accurate real-time and predictive traffic information and broadest coverage available."
And Microsoft added live traffic information of selected regions to Windows Live Local.


Have a safe weekend!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

GPS Trends

After reading an amusing article on Google Trends at the SF Chronicle, I decided to give it a try using GPS related keywords and soon some trends started to come up.

The top ten countries searching for GPS are all located in Europe, with French speakers ahead of the pack. But Germans make the top 10 spots while using Navigation (combined with GPS or not) as a keyword on their searches.

If you restrict to data from the United States, Tampa and Orlando in Florida come ahead with Pleasanton (CA), Salt Lake City (UT) and San Francisco next.

Italians seem to look after AGPS way more than Taipei, Brisbane and Melbourne. All seven Italian metropolis come first. Australians also look up GPS Maps more than London and SF.

Location-based services made the news at the first quarter of 2004 and searches jumped straight up through the middle of that year. Bangalore is way ahead of everyone with Delhi, SanFran and Munich way behind.

TomTom is mostly searched at its home base, Amsterdam. With searches picking up after it partnered up with NavTeq to use their maps in Europe and North America.

Garmin is looked up twice as much than Magellan and Oslo comes before Denver and Stockholm, with Zurich, Helsinki and San Francisco following. Kansas City (MO), Denver (CO) and Salt Lake City (UT) come first in U.S.

Differential GPS seems to grab the interest of Google users in Seoul and Germany.

Now, who looked up for tracking mostly? Florida (Orlando, Tampa, Miami) and Texas (Dallas, Houston, Austin). But Vegas comes first when you combine it with GPS with Florida and Texas still in the radar now bringing also Atlanta and San Diego.

Cell phone tracking? You guessed it. Just add Phoenix, St Louis and Los Angeles to the flock. Notice the jump straight up around September 2004.

Well, you got the idea.

No more tickets: GPS Speed Sentry

After the detour at Symbian packages and even Mac stuff, let's get back to the original PocketPC thread and talk about GPS Speed Sentry version 1.34. [Don't confuse with GPS Sentry, an add-on for the Today screen].

You can download GPS Speed Sentry at the author's website or from Handago and PocketGear. The idea of this product is to give a driver information about his or her speed and to alert when they are going faster than a previously set speed limit. An alarm will sound and the display will show your current speed in red, instead of the regular black color.

GPS Speed Sentry is developed by Trevor Hart (aka tchart) from New Zealand. His website has an interesting map showing which countries are using his product by displaying bars over a 3D map.

The application is notably well crafted and designed. Remember to set miles instead of kilometers if you live in U.S. by selecting "mph" under File Units Speed Units. You can also set the maximum speeds displayed at the main window at that page.

You have five views: a digital compass, a graph of your speed and another of your altitude. You can switch the color schema for use during the day or night. Under File Tools you can generate a .KML file for a given position.

There is also a satellite view with detailed data from your GPS receiver and the main view where you can check your current speed. You can probably save a few bucks with it. Registration costs US$15 for a license.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Student project: GPS for Emergency Personal

Engineering students from the University of Florida are working on a project that will allow emergency personal to be tracked down and make their location information available in remote areas where no communication services might be available:

"Each firefighter carries a 'FieldUnit,' a cellphone-sized device equipped with a Global Positioning System. The unit communicates via radio signal with a 'SmartNode,' a nearby laptop equipped with radio transmitter and receiver. The laptop then transmits this information via satellite phone or other means if available."
The University website also says that observers may also use their location data to track their current position on maps and to send SMS messages. Wow, nothing like connecting the transition from your playtime with the now called worktime. Cool example.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Da Vinci used GPS too

Twice in "Da Vinci's Code" GPS is used to help track down Hanks and Amelie. A third time someone else is located through cell-phone triangulation. The first time was funny, but this will get old pretty soon and most of the time things just don't quite work that way.

GPS for MacOSX: gpsdX and gps2geX

gps2geX uses data obtained from gpsdX daemon which connects to a GPS receiver over a serial port or Bluetooth to obtain valid location info.

With that you can open Google Earth and track your current position on a 3D map. The drawback is that you will need to have a working wireless connection for that. [Unless you work for Google and can take the bus from Los Gatos to Mountain View while playing with this.]

Install gpsdX first. Then gps2geX. You can download and install the beta version of Google Earth for MacOS from here.

If you have a Bluetooth receiver you first need to establish a partnership. Open the menu for Bluetooth and load the Bluetooth Setup Assistent which will look around for existing devices. Then open gpsdXConfig to select the GPS receiver. Now hit Select & Start, that wil create a script for the gpsd daemon process which will be updaded and restarted.

Now launch gps2geX. It will wait for a valid fix and let you select options about how you want to track its data. Hit Start gps2ge and wait for a good fix to be obtained.

When that happens you can launch Google Earth by clicking over the "open KML file in Google Earth" option, and track your position as long as you have a good working connection to the Net.

MeHere: GPS & Python

I have been trying to use MeHere for a while. This time while learning some Python along the way I finally got it to work on my setup.

This includes a Bluetooth receiver connecting to a Windows XP laptop using the BlueSoleil USB to Bluetooth dongle. MeHere runs as a Win32 exe that embeds the Python runtime with a script (check py2exe or Freeze for more on this). MeHere.py passes the values obtained through the serial port to which your GPS is connected to JavaScript in a browser. While refreshing a page, the script uses the data and loads Google Local for the corresponding position. The code is available so I could see what was causing the script to fail.

Python calls

I ran the Windows Installer package available at python.org to install version 2.3 (version 2.4.3 is the most recent at this time, but I was playing with py2exe which requires version 2.3). That caused changes to the Registry and performed all the necessary setup.

You can run a Python script by invoking the interpreter from the command-line like this:

c:\Python23\python MeHere.py

MeHere.py requires a Serial module that you can find here. And Serial on its turn requires the win32file module that can be downloaded from here. I wish MeHere author Greg Murphy had some way to package these modules as a .lib type file with his source (I would hope so but at this point I'm not sure this is something you can do with Python).

win32file does install Python extensions to Windows32 including COM related modules which can be used for automation. And that did it, running MeHere.py again with the Python interpreter caused IE to popup with the Google Local page and a flow of strings getting displayed in a command-line window with COM1 as its default Serial port.

Some tweaking required

I had a Bluetooth GPS connected to COM4 so I killed the script and looked for the default COM port back at the MeHere.py script (I probably could call the script with an argument too, but I didn't check for it). Line #69 had the only occurrence. Then I was able to reproduce the original error that put me down this road:

Unhandled exception in thread started by
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "mehere.py", line 182, in gps
elif line[0:6] == '$GPGGA' and datablock[2] and datablock[4]:
IndexError: list index out of range
Basically it seemed that the Serial communication didn't always get a whole $GPGGA sentence so I made sure it had more than 5 elements and added a bit of a delay after it failed to obtain a full/valid sentence. I also forced localhost at line #658.

That did it. I can see now the valid Long/Lat and the map got updated correctly. Greg's script does quite a bit of magic by running a webserver, writing XML, KML and providing the JavaScript with a valid position to display. By clicking on the link at the HTML page you can also open the accompanying KML file in Google Earth to see your current location in 3D.

Kudos for the effort. Pretty cool.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Google Local Mobile supporting GPS?

From this article at PCWorld, it seems that this might happen soon. But they will need to get it from the Java Location API which might take a bit longer for some phones. Meanwhile OpenWave is making available support for position determination at the Secure User Plane for Location (SUPL) from Open Mobile Alliance (OMA).

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Animal Talk through GPS Tags

This is from a Radio Program, so you listen to it instead of getting your eyes tired of all this reading. Check Earth & Sky for the links.

I will just quote one passage from the interview to "Randy Kochevar, a scientist with California's Monterey Bay Aquarium" where he is asked about the different types of tags used to track animals and in particular GPS Tags:

"[...] we know where the animal is in your real time, we can check every day and learn its position. And other tags that use a different satellite system, but can still estimate the position on the globe are also being used even with some marine animals, animals that live under water but that spend enough time at the surface so that the tag can* actually talk to the satellites, and we can actually get a good solid location on that animal."
* Truncated in the original

Monterey Aquarium is using Argos satellites, which offers "Geo-positioning services for North America" to track the location of the marine life.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

No GPS for Philly Cabs

Like the cabbies from New York, Philly drivers are pretty unhappy with Philadelphia Parking Authority after being required to add GPS units to their taxi cabs.

Meanwhile, you can now buy the Micro Track devices at Sharper Image. And more tracking devices are becoming available. Plus, phone companies continue to add tracking services to their customers. Like Disney's Family Locator, powered with AutoDesk backend location services.

And now you can feel safer walking to the dorm at night.

Go ahead, track away...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

GPS News

. Royal Post let customers track deliveries with help of GPS. And marketeers are thinking about tracking junk mail with GPS too.

. Going to Brazil? Check this post by Mark Taylor on his findings including Destinator maps for the area.

. Forbes discovers GPS and puts together a slide show covering from tracking devices to navigation systems.

. Concerned about tracking? Congress is getting a bit anxious about it too.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Measure areas with Google Local

ACME Laboratories made available a while ago Google Planimeter. With it you can plot points on a map and it will give you the distance between two points or an area enclosed by them.

From the site: " The area computation is done using spherical geometry, so it's correct for large regions."

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Circuit Cellar GPS Projects

Steve Ciarcia wrote for Byte Magazine for probably decades and another good years ago started his own publication, Circuit Cellar. April and May issues include two GPS related projects. April has a data acquisition project for mobile applications that might include tracking and other location-based uses.

May issue shows how you can obtain data from a Bluetooth GPS receiver and get it displayed with the help of a PIC processor and a LCD.

Electronic edition of the magazine also available.

Open Geography

Sam Bacharach clarifies on the May Issue of GeoWorld the role of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and the work of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation. The result of their work translates into OpenGIS Specifications.

Among the products that implement these standards are Open Source packages like the effort from the Open Planning Project with GeoServer, a fully compliant WMS server.

Based on material from GeoWorld magazine

GPS & LBS Magazines

If you want to follow more closely what's going on with new GPS developments and its offsprings like Location-Based Services (LBS) check these sites:

GPS World and its sister publication, LBS Insider and the Directions Magazine and companion reading Location Inteligence Magazine.

On the Geo side, check GeoWorld, a really well done publication by GeoPlace.

Tracking houses

According to article from the Mercury News:

"The state plans to map the homes of nearly 2,000 sexual offenders using Global Positioning System satellite technology to certify they are staying far enough from schools."

Build a GPS-enabled robot

TotalRobots has a Global Positioning System Module (GPM) "to determine time, date, and position." You can combine it with the BrainStem module which "uses its built-in I2C bus to communicate with the GPM." Good way to put quite a few skills in practice so go check Acroname's website, it includes source code examples.

Check also TotalRobots website for some more ideas and some ready-made kits and the modules and GPS Evaluation boards available at Spark Fun.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Where is Tim?

Want to know where Tim Hibbard is now? Or anyone else for that matter? Want to pay for someone that knows around town and can show through his eyes what's worth going to?

Nothing that far fetched. And through Google Local, and even Google Earth.

Tim uses a Nextel phone with true GPS and made code examples available.

InternetNews found out first.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

DIY Game Cell

Mercury News published an article on a Homebrew Mobile Phone Club that's talking about putting together their own phone, piece by piece. Somehow GPRS comes to mind and GSM. Through GPRS you can exchange packets over radio. Internet Over The Air (IOTA).

GSM seems like the real standard, Europe/Asia/South America already embraced it. So does U.S. Imagine then that you combine these two and realize what Gizmondo was about.

Add GPS and you got the mobile platform for gaming & other affairs.

Geocaching IS the game

I read this and thought it had something to do PhoneTag, the GPS-based game that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's company, LivePlanet are developing for Amp'd Mobile. The exclusive WSJ published a whole article about GPS games on mobile phones saying that PhoneTag should be available in July. [Full article was available here.]

"Amp'd Mobile users will be able to invite a circle of friends to join in a game of PhoneTag by sending text invitations to their cellphones, or to participate in a game with strangers. When a game starts, players will be given a target - another player - that appears on their cellphone screens as a dot on a virtual map. The game can be played on almost any territory, whether a college campus or a city."
But no. It was talking about the real GPS game. Find the GeoCache.

Loki: Locate me

Loki reminds me of a character in a book I read sometime ago from Gore Vidal: Kalki, with an Indian God/Goddess image in my mind but Wikipedia points North, to a Nordic myth to be more specific whose character in fact tells quite a bit about this package.

Lost?

But before we get there it seems that the big press is finding out about the gps/location phenomena and jumps in. Business Week has "Hello, where am I?" selling Verizon for its navigation phones. Better than tracking services, a special service from your wireless phone cable company.

And Evangelics also take you for a walk, with GPS. Nice.

Loki

SkyHook Wireless made some noise about Loki a while ago. I decided to try it out at last. For now, Windows Firefox only (versions for Mac & Linux in the works it seems). It updates your Firefox browser and installs itself as a new toolbar atop your tabs.

Like Wigle, Loki keeps a database with the known location of Wireless Access Points for a given area (check their coverage map), as a fallback your machine IP address can be used with a much lower accuracy which might take you to the building of your ISP instead.

From the Developers page: "By capturing the MAC address and SSID of nearby WiFi access points, the Skyhook WiFi Positioning System (WPS) can then triangulate the device's location and generate a latitude/longitude - or we can go a step further and reverse geocode that location to return street address, city, county, zip, country, etc".

There is also available a Skype plug-in for E911. The idea is that you can make emergency calls and provide your current location.

Find me

SkyHOOK Wireless installs a driver to XP and from Firefox (or IE) it calls into it to determine your location, probably by talking back to its location server with your IP address and the MAC ID of your Wireless AP. The bottom left of the status bar in the browser has now a lat/lon setting.

The idea is that if your wireless access point can be found at their database, it will be used to pinpoint your current location, otherwise you will need to "tune" it manually by telling Loki where you are (even if you are trying to find that out) by providing an address (# street, city, zip). This will make a HTTPS call back to Loki servers to upload your data. After that it should tell you about what is around with the Channels tab.

It does jump to quite a few different websites including Yahoo pages that are far from being any useful and some other places. But you will need to work a bit to find something if only Zip code was used for positioning. Navizon seems to have a better model by allowing users to upload their own access point location data.

Goodies

The GeoTag tab will give you the corresponding XML tag for the current location:

Geotag 37.059830 -122.003914 Location provided by Skyhook Wireless
The toolbar provides an interface to Google Local by letting you use keywords to search locally. If you want to add a tagline to your email with your current location info, the Email tag will do just that by opening up whatever email client you have with a template for your info and a plug to Loki itself.

The Options tab will let you edit the list of Channels including the way the URL is built and passed to the corresponding website. From here you can also uninstall Loki from your browser. But beware that this won't remove the service that gets installed with it. You will need to uninstall and remove it manually [check under Services and for C:\Program Files\Skyhook Wireless\your_user_name\Wi-Fi Driver\WPSScannerSvc.exe"].

And you will also need to uninstall their Wi-Fi driver from Add/Remove Programs. Check all the data that is compiled at
C:\Documents and Settings\yourUserName\Local Settings\Application Data\Skyhook Wireless\log.

Conclusion

Based on the comment from Jed tuning adds your access point to Loki's database and Yahoo isn't the only place you can get stuff from. To be honest I got a bit discouraged to try more channels after the initial results. And I don't like the fact that you still have a service and driver running even after you have it apparently uninstalled from a machine, plus all the data that is being monitored and stored. A bit too much.

But in any case, giving it a bit more use I looked up for gas prices and it did point to stations close by. Weather, which uses the Zip code worked too. But ShopLocal put me 10 miles from Oakland when I was in fact about 80 miles away.

Guess I had to take into account that this is still a beta product, that the times are asking for personal tracking so it is just inevitable and everyone should comply. Oh God...

Seriously a non-GPS based location technique on the client side would inherently produces a lower precision result. Loki interface should remember you that these are weird times. For their open (or semi-open) nature Wigle and Navizon should in the long run give you better data, keep your privacy and allow for other possibilities.

Loki is also working on a buddy finder for mobile phone users.

A new UI?

And for some mobile interface, check MobileMagazine for an UI that might have some future potential. What you think?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Forget MS: Get the Pulse of the City

I forgot to post about some deals that MS made with Qualcomm, so check this article on Technology Review if you care for an appetizer and get the real meat in a pretty lucid interview by Carlo Ratti from the SENSEable City Consortium, a MIT project. Ratti exposes a series of extraordinarly clear ideas about the usage or not of location data:

"[...]when you see all the dynamics of the city in real time, is not only to optimize your trip but also to really get the pulse of the city."
MS also made available the beta version of its Windows CE 6 for its closest friends. And will open source some of it.

Qualcomm Tells the Game

This one is Freudian: Sanjay Jha gave an interview to EETimes #1422 where when asked about his predictions on the future of Location Services, Jha replies saying that ATI chipsets and its relationship to game developers can easily translate into a model where users when downloading the second level of a game would pay $2.99 a pop. First level free.

Freud certainly explains, or Jung, Reich, Fritz, who knows... Or is he offering it to someone? Probably US vendors. My prediction is that this game will show up pretty soon in Japan and other Asian markets. Maybe Europe too, a lot faster than U.S. That's for sure.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Telcontar Opens API for Drill Down Server

[Update: Telcontar now calls itself deCarta]. In a press release like format Sys-Con Australia describes the Open API for Telcontar Drill Down Server (and not Telecontar). Telcontar as published here has among its clients "Google, Yahoo, Rand McNally and AskJeeves. It supplies geocoding, routing, spatial search plus traffic data for road conditions and detours."

Telcontar is also making available hosted web services that according to SymbianOne is:

[..] industry's most advanced and easy-to-use solution for creating rich, high-performance AJAX fluid maps for location-enabled applications.

Searchable Maps

SearchEngineWatch points out an article at Technology Review about SenseWeb, a Microsoft project that will allow users to "browse online maps for up-to-the-minute information about local gas prices, traffic flows, restaurant wait times, and more."

Visual Wiki

This one came up at AutoBlog which got it from Government Technology which coined the term. The magic of it is pretty clear. Allow everyone to add tags (green or red ballons in this example) with information relative to that spot on a Google Local map.

Visual Wiki.
Great term and article.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

GPS Signals Over the Net

This one doesn't make any sense. Maj. Chuck Daniels head of a research team at Schriever Air Force Base had this news out a while ago. Now that was retracted.

But why do you say that GPS over IP doesn't work? If you can have it over wireless like in Assisted-GPS? What are you trying to hide here?

Something it seems. But I'm not going to be the one to ask the Air Force about it. I think this might be related to the cuts being made to the current GPS program itself. Wall Street Journal ran an article [subscribtion required now] on this two days ago.

Now that the Europe led Galileo project is moving ahead at full power, it sure makes the wave of PR generated while Galileo was getting most of the attention look a lot like a little bit of smoke & mirrors to make who knows happy.

Here are some other ways: GpsOverIp Protocol, DGPS over the Net, Frason, NEC.