Where will you hide? Geotagging won”t let you

Posted on May 14, 2010 in Sci-Tech

Udit Dave:

Cell phones have become the heart and soul of millions of people world-wide, combining dozens of features formerly found separately or on PCs.

What’s next? What technology will they miniaturize and cram into the tiny phones we all carry around? We can’t possibly think of what they are up to.

Another way of looking at it is, how will existing technologies be “combined” to produce powerful new features we can all use?

One such new advancement is Geotagging or Geocoding.

Geotagging, also known as geocoding, is the insertion of latitude and longitude data into a file or document, such as a digital photograph. In the same way that the time and date are encoded into digital photos, data that records the location where the picture was taken can also be added automatically using existing standard file formats like JPEG.

Geotagging isn’t just for experts. Consumers do it, too. Flickr added geotagging in August. It works by showing you a satellite view or map of any place on Earth, plus thumbnails of your uploaded photos. By dragging and dropping each thumbnail onto the location on the map where it was taken, Flickr geocodes it.

A product called the Jelbert GeoTagger attaches to a digital camera’s flash shoe. When you take a picture, the GeoTagger captures the location via GPS — even the direction the lens is pointed using an internal compass. Later, you can use third-party software to merge all that data with the picture files themselves. It requires that you buy a GPS receiver.

Almost all mid-to-high range of camera phones already sport built-in GPS. The GPS functions in these phones aren’t hooked up to autogeolocating functions, however, but adding GPS to phones is the first step.

Another new advancement from ZoneTag, which is being developed by Yahoo Research and is already available online, is designed to help you tag photos for Flickr and upload them all from your phone. Compatible Motorola or Nokia phone (Series 60 V2, Series 60 V3 phones).

With all this happening, Microsoft Corp. unveiled a research project at its TechFest event that identifies your location using the picture itself. The idea is that thousands — potentially millions — of “landmarks” in a given city are indexed in a database and associated with exact coordinates. By taking a picture of one of the landmarks with your camera phone, the software sends that picture via your phone’s data connection for processing. A remote mega-computer quickly identifies the building, and sends back location information to your phone about the specific location.

With this happening an innovative application of geocoding, is trying to be implemented in the field of journalism, news houses have started an attempt to geocode all of their articles so that users can precisely choose the area corresponding to which they want the news. More applications can be in the field of shopping, entertainment, travelling info and probably every other thing that requires a location.

Geotagging is perfect for a digital camera or camera phone to always know its location, and automatically and instantly add the exact location to a picture’s metadata, just like time and date are now added to all the photos you currently take. Location information can later be used to do a number of powerful and cool things.

This can be possible only if, handset makers, software developers, carriers and others all work together to support the cause of geocoding. Individual efforts will produce results much later and also wouldn’t be as appealing as a combined effort.

But whatever be the outcome of these technologies, it is quite overwhelming the way location technologies are progressing each day and some day it will be too difficult for someone to hide…!!!


The writer is a Sci-Tech correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz and believes in disseminating as much knowledge as he can about technology.