Geocoding Content & Telemetry

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Bike reviews the options for geocoding your photos:

When riding my bike (or during skiing) I often take photos. Sometimes I also carry a small GPS-receiver. Afterwards I want to be able to link the photos to the geographic information and add coordinates to the pictures I was taking – in an easy way. This is what geocoding photos is about – associating an image with geographical coordinates as longitude and latitude.

Why Gecode your photos?

  • Photosharing sites such as Flickr or Zooomr display your photos in their geographic context on a map – other users can search for images in a special region
  • See your images in Google Earth, share Google Earth files with your photos embedded with others
  • Where exactly was that nice beach or the stunning view from the mountain? When your photos are geocoded you know it exactly
  • On my computer I want to be able to search for all pictures taken at a specific location

When adding coordinates to your pictures this information will be stored in the Exif-header of your photos – the image itself will remain unchanged:

Nikon offers a special cable, which connects your gps device with one of their high-end DSLRs – (D2Xs, D2X & D200, starting around 1500 USD) cameras. This hardware allows users to directly capture geospatially referenced images.

Manufacturers start to integrate GPS receivers into compact cameras – Ricoh introduced a first model some weeks ago – see the picture here.

Manual Geocoding

  • Flickr or Zooomr:
    Both photo sharing sites offer a convenient way to add geographic information afterwards – you search for a location on a map and link the images to it. You can also link multiple images at the same time – at Zooomr e.g. you can select your photos by tags.
    Main downsides:
    • this process can take some time if you want to geocode lots of images at different locations
    • Also, the result can get inaccurate and you still need to remember, where you shot your photos, e.g during your vacation. Imagine outdoor activities like skiing or bicycling in the woods. Or aerial photography – here this manual approach won’t work to good.
    • Last downside: the geo-information is not added to the picture itself, so if you download you geocoded picture afterwards it won’t contain any geo-information.
  • Picasa
    Picasa lets you geocode your images using Google Earth. Just select the images and click on Tools -> Geotag with Google Earth. Now select the location you want to link your images to and you are done – the information ist stored in the file’s exif-header.

Geocoding with software

There is a clever solution, which will save you time (because it does all the geocoding automatically) and which will geocode your photos in a very accurate way.

  • A GPS-receiver records and saves your current location. You export this data later to your computer.
  • Software which will compare the time, at which you shot a picture, with the geographic information recorded by the gps receiver and write the appropiate coordinates the back to the image’s Exif header.

The geocoding process itself is very fast – geocoding 700 images after my last vacation was just a matter of minutes. Lots of different applications exist to perform this task – the price ranges from free to a couple of hundred USD.
I tried several of them – these were my impressions

  • RoboGeo

    Windows Shareware ($34.95 USD). Lots of options, somewhat strange configuration (instead of clicking checkboxes you have to type in “true” or “false”..)
  • Gartrip

    Windows Shareware ($35 USD). Developed to manage gps tracks and waypoints in many ways – if you also want to use this functionality then it might be a good choice.
  • Fodysseus
    Windows ($29 USD), Demo available. Very easy to use, simplistic interface.
    Just drag images and tracks into the application and it will geocode the photos
  • GPSPhotoLinker

    OS X, Donationware, $0 USD. Easy to use, clean interface.
    Just select the photos and the GPS track, then start the (batch)processing
  • PhotoGPSEditor
    An easy to use freeware meta-data editor for photo files, plus it can match data from GPS (gpx or NMEA) files.

In Addition you can even geocode pictures manually – either by using Google Earth and clicking on the right location or by entering / editing the coordinates, if you know them.

The AXTracker MMT is a self- contained satellite data device designed to communicate via the Globalstar satellite network. Iridium-based trackers are also available.

Cingular Wireless has a subscription navigation service called TeleNav GPS Navigator on some handsets and PDAs, Verizon Wireless has VZ Navigator while Sprint Nextel offers MapQuest Navigator, which features a pedestrian walking mode. Telmap provides navigation on your cell phone for a small monthly fee, not just in the U.S. but in many other markets as well.

Here’s how to use Google Earth to provide GPS mapping in real time, cost-effectively. Connect GPS to Google Earth on a PC with software like Goops, Earth Bridge, or GPS2geX (for the Mac).

One of my favorite map mashup sites is Platial. The free website lets anyone make geo-coded Google Map Mashups, complete with photos and other media inserts, quickly and easily.

A GPS-receiver receiver that automatically records time stamps is handy. But lacking that, you could just shoot a second picture (at the scene) of any GPS readout (to record the coordinates). Next year, GPS PDAs could be linking up with Mobile WiMAX. Upload your podcasts to Google’s new web application services (complete with Widgets).

Linking your photos to a map (while on the move) is now a piece of cake. Consider the power of a multimedia phone like Cingular’s 8525 along with an HD still/video camera like Panasonic’s FZ-8 or Canon’s Powershot TX-1 or the WiFi-enabled Nikon S-50c ($350).

Photo sharing sites like SmugMug and Phanfare let you sell prints. They’re different from Kodak EasyShare Gallery, Snapfish, Webshots or another mainstream service whose main aim is to sell you lots of products.

Why not supply live webcasting or telemetry for marathons, biking events or other activities. Live position and telemetry data might be relayed to a hub in a recumbent bike.

Drop in a $200 MediaFlex Hotspot (for 1/2 mile range) and feed it with Mobile WiMAX. The AirBox CM3 has a cellular connection for the back-end, and provides local Wi-Fi hotspot service. The AirBox X2 ($1099) has two different connections to cellular (or other) providers and provide a local wired or Wi-Fi hotspot.

Charge $500/day. The tricky bit is generating $1000/day revenue from the coverage. Photo sharing sites like SmugMug and Phanfare let you sell prints. Photobucket users can combine images, videos, text, and music provided by Pump Audio to create content mashups from their Photobucket albums, without requiring any additional downloads.

Zooomr lets you append short audio commentary to individual photos. Tabblo is a free photo-sharing site, that lets you create snazzy, book-style online layouts of your pictures and share them at the Tabblo site, your blog and other photo sites, including Yahoo’s Flickr.

ShoZu photo uploading software might be the slickest — it runs on cell phones to send photos to sharing destinations. You can post photos to a weblog with Flickr. Equip your crew with $350 Canon point and shoots and $350 Nokia 800 webtablets. Have everyone post to Flickr, Zooomr or Tabblo.

Add some Shoe GPS tags, WiFi Location tags, Ezurio’s WiFi telemetry tags or Garmin’s GPS-enabled cycle computer (Marathon Woman Interview). Provide live telemetry of heart rate, speed and cadence using standardized, commodity Wi-Fi backbones, SQL databases and Web 2.0 interfaces.

Shake and bake. Proprietary cellular technology is so 20th century.

The Trackstick maps your location on Google Earth and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth and can record the time you spent at every location you were at. The batteries last 24 hours in full power mode and 5-7 days in low power mode.

It can record 4000 records with Date, Time, Longitude, Latitude, Speed, Direction, Altitude and other information. Track Stick outputs KML flies for compatibility with Google Earth, transfering files via USB connection.

Live telemetry might have all sorts of applications. The NY Times Interactive Travel Map could go “live” with real-time traffic congestion data, hotel accomodations, tickets and other information.

Nike’s Mapit (FAQ) lets you draw, describe and share routes you run. You can track your progress running the same route over time. The Google Maps Pedometer and Walk Jog Run tools are also useful.

Blow up the newspaper and start with a clean slate. We are the web.

Related DailyWireless articles include; GPS Tracking: In a Shoe, On a Bike, Wireless GPS Camera, New Smartphones from HTC, Polar Flight Telemetry, Happy GIS Day!, GPS Sports Workout Phone, Photo Lat/Long via WiFi, Cingular 8525, Tiny Trackers, Nokia Webtablet Navigator, Marathon Woman, GPS Dog Collar, GPS Watch & Tracker, EZ Photo Mapping, Bluetooth Watch Monitors Elderly, Sat Phone Road Trip and Where 2.0.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Monday, February 26th, 2007 at 9:06 am .