I posted yesterday about wanting to use my phone to publish my location in realtime, and I got a bunch of fantastic responses both in the comments and as emails (thanks folks!) I fooled around with some of them with varying degrees of success. Nokia Sport Tracker seems like it would be great! However, I can’t figure out how to make the phone app do it’s job. Maybe my fault, I have an E71 and it’s not listed as a supported model. I’ll have to dig out my N95 and try that one. However, on the Android side, I put FirePin on my phone and was able to upload and share out info about my route (course, it only has to points, cause I have the phone on wifi only right now). FirePin supposedly also works with FireEagle based on the comments I got. But I can’t figure out how that’s supposed to work.
Generally I’ve been hearing frequently about how location based services are really starting to happen this time around. Yea, yea, I know. That’s what we’ve said every year for the last decade. Don’t even bother, I’ve heard it all before. However, this time we have some open platforms with GPS built into the handset, which means there’s a way to work around most of the problems inherent in the carrier based system we had before. Any by “problems” I mean “crippling cost structure”. I can kinda understand how that seems like a more mature market for location based services. Because end users can grant permission to an application for it to directly grab location info, there are all kinds of services out there.
However, I would hardly count that as platform maturity. That’s a degree of market maturity, but not platform maturity. Sure, it’s easier to build a location based app. Just plop your application into any one of the silos that folks have built to control the deployment of your application and management of your data, and blammo! New app. Yea, not the way I normally think about these things. Which is not to belittle the efforts like FireEagle, I just think there are a few missing bits.
Here’s the kinds of stuff I was expecting to see:
- A somewhat generic app that records location information. Recording information to a local file seems to be pretty decent, I guess there are standards floating around for that. However, there doesn’t seem to be much of a standardized interface/protocol for streaming location information up to a server. GPSGate has a protocol that seems to operate over UDP and TCP, but that doesn’t seem to be an accepted public format.
- Some server component that I can chuck on one of my machines to accept samples sent up by that little client shim.
- Basic tools to display those samples on a map. Google has provided most of the backbone and made it pretty simple to use. But there’s also Openstreetmap for those who are Google alergic.
That basic set of functionality is a write-once bit of infrastructure. It gets us out of the “Oh yea, FirePin is great!! Wait, no, you can’t use it on your Nokia”. Not that the tools won’t evolve. But there should be an open set of base clients for all the different mobile platforms, and then anyone who wants to build a web app that pulls in location info can just say “Okay, add local.rowehl.com:9900 to your location client to start updating the Mike-o-matic pile of gold finder app with your current location” Instead we have all these different point solution client applications, frequently hardcoded to send location to a given server. Dumb.