All right folks, this post is going to contain a few more maybes than i usually include, but i’m excited enough to post early. And i promise i will post a follow up, or an edit to this posting. Happy?
One paragraph of background. Geotagging a photograph is the process of including the information of where a photo was taken, into the photo. It is the next big thing in digital photography. It’s currently not yet widely available (that is, most cameras do not have location data) and add-ons tend to be clumsy, expensive or both. Here’s how it might be different.
I would very much like to have my photos location-tagged, but i would not like to shell out lots of cash to have it done. This is especially true the few times i travel abroad. Yes i know i’ve been in Firenze or Amsterdam or Ljubliana or whatever, and i’ve taken photograps from there. But the geek in me wants to know exactly where i’ve taken these pics. Since the officially sanctioned way for me to get geo data onto my pictures would require an add-on which costs nearly as much as the camera itself — and this does not include a GPS unit (though it does include an Ethernet port and WiFi) — this really isn’t a viable option. I found a nifty device which is a location data logger. After you’ve done your photo trail, you insert your film chip into it and it writes the geo data straight into the picture. A rather nifty idea, though i’d feel a bit awkward of putting my photos into a box before i have taken a backup of them.
This is why i was particularly happy to realize that in fact i already have a solution deployed and that i’ve been using it for some time without knowing. Or rather, i’ve been using to a criminally low level, because i haven’t known better. Here’s the deal, and it comes from Yahoo! labs.
Step zero: You are a Flickr user. I am, so that was easy for me. And since you are a Flickr user, you have a Yahoo! identity, which you’ll need. You also need a Nokia s60 series or Motor-ola “smart” phone. Oh, and a digital camera which is not built into your phone.
Step one: Fetch and install Yahoo! research labs’ Zonetag software. Zonetag’s primary advertised usage is to location-tag photos taken with the phone’s built-in camera. This is not what you are going to use it for. You’re going to use Zonetag as a datalogger.
Step two: When going out to shoot, engage Zonetag. If you have a GPS, all the better. If not, Zonetag will use the cell identification data and hopefully (probably) have the geo data so that it knows where-about the cell is. Make sure you have location logging engaged (you will see a feature called “Upload log” with a size greater than zero if it works). Grab yer phone. And then, out you go!
Step three: Make sure your camera’s time is set correctly. Some software synch the camera’s clock, which is nice. The problem comes when you’re abroad and your camera only has the notion of “local time”, not GMT+timezone (stupid!), so if you’re downloading photos on the road, double check that your camera is still in time. Now photograph.
Step four: When back, or whenever, use Zonetag’s Location Logging > Upload log (xxx kb) function. This will send your location log to Zonetag’s server (insert privacy/paranoia alerts here, if you’re so inclined). Upload your photos to Flickr and tag them with “ZoneTagIt”.
Step five: Go to Zonetag’s Digicam geotagging web interface (this link will work for you if you’re a registered Zonetag user). Click Start the process and push the big orange button once. Allow Yahoo! some thinking time and it’ll tag all your photos that it can match to your Location log within a hysterisis of 20 seconds (see, i told you that you need to have your camera’s time synched). All photos that were successfully geotagged, will have its ZoneTagIt tag removed.
Step duh (this will not happen to you): All photos that weren’t successfully tagged will retain their ZoneTagIt tag. And since i yet haven’t found a way to batch-remove tags from photograhps, you’re left with 1102 photos that can’t be geotagged because you don’t have the location data. Thus, you’ll have to manually remove those tags. This of course will not happen to you since you followed what i wrote and not what i did, which was to use Flickr’s Organize interface, select all non-geotagged photos and tagging then ZoneTagIt.
The disclaimer/maybe bit: I haven’t actually managed to actually gps-tag my pictures. This is just how it should work. I managed to tag three pictures but i think they were all taken with my cell phone and i had some cell ID info embedded into them. This is the bit i will check and confirm mlater.
Caveat, and a bad one it is: I haven’t been able to upload my location log from my primary phone, a Nokia E90 “communicator”. That’s kinda sad, since the E90 has a GPS built in, and it tends always to be with me. My backup phone, an N76, has no problems with uploads, but with it, i either only get cell tags or i need to carry an external GPS unit. I might be able to use the E90′s GPS for that though
One final use for Zonetag is that it can upload your current location to Yahoo!’s Fire Eagle location broker service (here i could get into a rant about the stupidity that Yahoo! has a location service, Google has a location service, and a few others probably also has, but they don’t interoperate). I’m still waiting for a plug-in to send my approximate location data from Fire Eagle to my blog (and to Twitter) so it can notify where i was when i wrote (or tweeted) that. I’ve already established that such stuff is being made. I just haven’t seen it live yet.