Sometimes you just need to be found…

Remember in Thunderbirds where John Tracey would always be looking out for people in distress from his satellite Thunderbird 5 ? He never seemed to have to ask people where they were…

Something I have been working with the Android team on for the last few months is the Emergency Location Service, a feature on android phones that when supported by your network, sends a more accurate location from your phone to emergency services when you dial an emergency number.

To do this same location technologies available to apps on your phone, including Wi-Fi, GPS, and cell towers is used, to produce a more reliable emergency location both indoors and outdoors. Up until now in Europe only cell tower information has been used.

Testing in the UK has produced a order of magnitude improvement in the location accuracy made available to the emergency services.

More details on the Google Europe Blog..

If you are in the UK and have an android device this is working for you today !

Cultural differences..

This one very rare tweet from Andy Rubin, lead on the Android Programme at Google in 140 characters perfectly embodies the open and geeky culture at Google. This is of course not always initially a great advantage when building consumer facing products, for my non geeks readers

“mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git:// ; repo sync ; make”

means you can download the source code that is android from the Internet and build your own version without asking google..

If you are missing the context, this tweet appears to me in response to comments made by Steve Jobs of Apple yesterday,  but so far in the history of IT Open always beats Closed…

Written and submitted from the Google Offices, London (51.495N, 0.146W)

Augmented Reality mashup* Event

Nearest Tube AR for real
Nearest Tube AR for real

Hot topic of the moment if you have been tracking application development on the iPhone and Android platforms is Augmented Reality (AR), the ability to display annotated views of the world using a smartphones video camera and GPS.

The excellent team behind the Mashup* events are holding an event later this month and I would recommend it highly if you are in London.

It’s early days still for AR and progress will be limited in the short term by both a lack of data and poor quality digital compass functionality but the potential is huge.

There has been a discussion of the need for AR standards to develop AR applications on the geowanking email list, and there are as usual many existing standards which could be adopted, but it may still be too early for a standardisation process as the real issues of interoperability are not clearly understood yet.

AR is clearly one of the technologies that is moving geospatial data and its representation away from traditional cartography and all its limitations, and it will become something we all take for granted within a few years.

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network

Contextual Computing and The Informed Traveller


I’m speaking next week at the Location and Timing Forum who are holding a special meeting on the informed traveller, in other words providing contextual services to travellers.

Next week the meeting is at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, so I won’t really be needing much in the way of contextual services to get me there ..

But in all seriousness I have become to rely at least on the mobile mapping services on both my Android and iPhone to get me to meetings, where once I might have printed off a map from a web mapping service, or in the more distant past used a street atlas, I now just use my phone.

This is of course the most obvious and simple application, the real innovation will come when in addition to location the other context clues about the individual traveller such as time and history are also used in applications.

Written and submitted from the Google Office, London.

Went for a walk, came back with a map


Early this week to test a new Android application and to walk of the Google Christmas Lunch, I went for an early afternoon walk near the office.

The application I was testing was My Maps Editor and Android application to create and edit Google My Maps, and it pretty much worked first time as expected allowing be to create a simple map of my walk.

At the end of 2008 it’s quite difficult to get really excited by this as we have come to expect so much from mainstream geospatial technology.

But just think what I have achieved from my walk, not only have I created a multimedia rich database with potentially metre accuracy geospatial features, I have also created a distribution channel to publish the database within minutes to hundreds of millions of users.

All from a mobile device that costs a few hundred pounds.


So this type of technology may never be used to create base map data, but for many organisations who need to be able to do simple data capture outside of the office there is huge potential here.

Maybe over christmas I will complete my recycling map for Richmond 🙂

Written and submitted from the Google Office, London.