We had a blast last week visiting friends in Denver, Colorado. For three days we went up to Vail, which is one of the best skiing regions I’ve ever been too – great slopes and awesome back country terrain!
The tiny green geonerd sitting on my shoulder made me turn my GPS on while being out on the mountain. Carrying the GPS receiver in the pocket of my jacket worked surprisingly well and resulted in about 160km of neat slope and lift traces. Here they are, shown as KML overlay on a Google Map…
I’ve just heard in the All Points Blog podcast, that the iPhone SDK doesn’t allow access to the dock connector. That means some third party hardware developers, like Gomite and their locoGPS module, have to find such weird workarounds like transmitting a signal from the plugged-in GPS module over WiFi back to the iPhone application. Sounds pretty complicated (and battery intensive) to me.
By releasing Core Location as part of the iPhone SDK, Apple is actively promoting LBS on the iPhone. GPS or no GPS on mobile devices isn’t just black and white, there are shades of gray like A-GPS for instance. While cell tower triangulation might provide sufficient accuracy for some LBS (“find pizza nearby”) in urban areas, for others, like navigation, it doesn’t.
Seriously, why would you want to disable navigation on a mobile device with that screen and user interface?
Garmin enters the smartphone market and announced Nuviphone (I especially like the NuviPhone detail):
Unlike the iPhone it comes with comprehensive GPS functionality like navigation and built-in geotagging, which is great and makes it a potential phone-upgrade-candidate! More information here, here and here. via [BlinkGeo]
Rainer links to an interesting NYT article about the recently introduced My Location feature in Google Maps mobile. Actually the first thought coming to my mind when I heard about My Location two weeks ago was: “How come that Google knows cell tower positions, almost worldwide?”.
As far as I know it’s one of the best kept secrets among mobile carriers. Christopher Schmidt gave a talk about that issue at the Where 2006 conference, explaining the ignorance of most mobile carriers and showed us his GSM location hack.
According to the NYT article, Google gathers cell location information the same way as Christopher did: users equipped with mobile phones and GPS devices send cell and location information back to a central unit, where it’ll be provided for other users without GPS devices.
Or in other words, Google uses GPS enabled mobile phones, like your 800,- EUR Nokia N95 for instance, to enhance their service. Strangely not every Google employee supports this strategy and dare to sell a N95 on eBay.
However, Rainer points out, and I totally agree, that an API for LBS is needed. We have seen what happened when developers gained access to geographic information through APIs. LBS has been the next big mobile thing for a couple of years now. I think an LBS API could finally make it happen and bring thousands of ideas and map mashups to mobile devices.
I totally missed that it’s allowed in OpenStreetMap to derive vector data from aerial imagery provided by Yahoo! Maps. Apparently already since December 2006.
Last weekend, when we checked Vienna on OSM, we started wondering how come that it’s suddenly so rich on details. Did we miss a local GPS boom or mapping party?
The last time, it was summer, I collected and edited some tracks in my neighborhood for OSM, Vienna was poorly covered. Some major roads showed up and only a few neighborhoods were mapped more detailed (including parks, cemeteries or water areas for instance).
I didn’t know then that I can actually use the aerial imagery to refine my tracks and relied on the data my GPS unit returned. Reception and therefore accuracy in dense urban areas and narrow streets isn’t the best as you can imagine. Some of my tracks were way off and it was quite a hassle to put them in JOSM to a valid street network together.
However, the boost the Yahoo! aerial imagery gave OSM is impressive. Most parts of the central Viennese districts are already well covered. No wonder, it’s very easy to edit without the need of previously generated GPS tracks, directly via the browser interface.
High resolution aerial imagery + collaborative mapping tools = the real public geodata!
(With some help of the good old Gründerzeit raster, which makes mapping this city pretty straightforward I guess)
The EU finally agreed last Friday on a financial program for Galileo, the European Satellite Navigation System. 1.6 billion EUR leftovers from previous agricultural funds (was 56.3 billion EUR in 2007 total), plus another 800 million EUR from research funds (approx 3.8 billion EUR in 2008 total) will be allocated to build Galileo (cf. EU budget). Approximately 1 billion EUR has been already spent on the project. According to the new time frame, we should see 30 satellites up in the orbit by 2013.
However, noteworthy is the new tendering procedure: it’s split up into 6 different segments. One bidding company can only be accepted as lead in max. 2 segments. Then, each segment volume must be be reassigned to subcontractors by at least 40%. This procedure should avoid that only large companies are favored and that small and medium-sized enterprises benefit from the 2.4 Galileo billions too.
Galileo seems now back on track again. Let’s see how long it’ll last this time… [via geobranchen]
TabletBlog covers a well done comparison between Apple’s iPod touch and Nokia’s N800. While reading and watching the video, one thing became clear to me: if I get such a web enabled mobile device, it has to be location aware. I don’t want to enter address strings and zoom and pan on maps until I find my position. I want the mobile web browser knowing my position automatically. I want instantly see content relevant to my current position whenever I open Google maps app or any site offering location aware content and services.
Gizmodo reports about a hack, actually it’s just about loading the Navizon app onto the iPhone, which adds GPS-like functionality (as they call it) to the iPhone. Apparently it’s nothing else then positioning based on cell towers and WiFi access points.
Basically it’s a feature most carriers could easily offer. But at the same time it’s a feature with serious privacy concerns. The question who is in control of and who gains access to people’s location information is a very sensitive one. Sooner or later there has to be a solution, as this will turn out as one of the most important features on mobile devices (yeah, I know, location based services are said to be the killer feature since 1998).
The mentioned Navizon solution still is a hack and not supported by Apple. The Apple iPhone is a closed platform, meaning none other than Apple is allowed to add functionality. In my opinion it’s the main reason for having a closer look at alternatives like the Nokia web tablets. Unlike Apple, Nokia still gives you control over the device you bought.
Naturfreunde published over 900 Austrian hiking, bike, ski, etc. routes as GPS data on their recently launched Tourenportal. In addition to the GPS tracks they provide some more information such as best season to go, an elevation profile, route length, descriptions, etc. about the routes. A KML file lets you nicely preview each tour in Google Earth. The project is a cooperation with Garmin, who is hosting the GPS routes as service too.
The GPS device is no problem, but if I only had the right shoes to do a hike I’d give that service a try. Maybe somebody should come up with a more urban tourportal…