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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Geotagging photos

Bilora photo-geotaggerI’ve been trying to geotag my photos using my PDA so I can cross-reference them by date. Though the process works it wastes by PDA’s battery on something like 1 1/2 hours.

A friend of mine is trying a cool new system: u-blox:

u-blox’ patented GPS Capture & Process technology enables mobile products to instantly capture a location using just a few millijoules of power. This is especially attractive for applications such as photo geotagging for cameras and camera accessories where users just want to point and shoot, and not waste precious time and battery power waiting for a conventional GPS position fix. The concept can easily be extended to ultra-low power position loggers that can record position data for months without recharging.

How it works
In contrast to real-time GPS receivers which can take an unacceptably long time to establish a position fix, GPS Capture & Process captures location data in a fraction of a second. It achieves this by separating the GPS signal capture and subsequent processing into two distinct steps:

  1. Capture: the raw output of an embedded GPS front-end is digitally captured and stored locally, for example in a camera’s memory each time a photo is taken.
  2. Process: when uploading photos for storage, u-Blox PC or Mac software also uploads the raw capture data and timestamp associated with each photo. With the help of u-blox’ online satellite positional data service, the raw data is quickly converted into a position fix.

The benefits to camera and logger manufacturers are clear:

  • Ultra-fast location capture: GPS signal data is captured on-demand in less than 200 ms – no waiting for acquisition of satellite orbital data necessary. Point and shoot performance!
  • Extremely low power solution: the GPS radio is on for a small fraction of a second per capture resulting in a negligible impact on battery life.
  • Fast time-to-market: complete end-to-end, globally available and reliable online geotagging and reverse geocoding service is available now.
  • Fast PC processing: geotagging and reverse-geocoding software and online service is optimized for Windows (XP, Vista and 7) and Mac and can typically compute a position fix from a capture in 0.4s per photo.

The system can work synced with the flash or operated manually. The online satellite positional data service is provided by u-blox, so this can be a problem the day they shut it down… and no, we can’t use it with a flash (I’m guessing this one…).

Probable the next generation of cameras will come equipped with geotagging capability, and this can be a great solution.

Cool gadget. Probably usable on a myriad of other scenarios…


Traveller said...

I don't understand at all. What's described here is not much different from the way a hand held GPS unit works. There's a bit that's not very well explained; it sounds as if the unit simply stores the last known point and uses that? Or perhaps one leaves it on always ( like a hand-held GPS ) and when you upload the photos the software simply matches your track log against the time stamp in the pictures? The article implies both.

In any case, a traditional GPS will clip to your belt or back pack, record a track log which can be matched by time stamp, and will last a day or two on a pair of AA batteries. When these are rechargeable, and the unit is put into power save mode, a week-long camping trip in the back country is easy to pull off. With the unit on anyway to record your personal map, there is no delay in acquiring a fix; it seems like both mentions of this are straw men.

Mário Romano said...

In order to get a position a GPS system needs a) the satellite timestamps, b) each of the satellite’s position (the so called fix), and c) process this information accordingly so that it can produce a position. This gadget and on the camera only does the first (a short burst), and postpones the other 2 for the moment we are getting the photos into the computer.
Let me give you a personal experience on my PDA: it takes me over a minute to get a fix, and only 30 sec. when I previously have synced the GPS positioning.
Thanks for your comment, hope I could help

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