The Weasley Clock and Google Latitude a mashup waiting to happen

In the UK there is a saying about waiting ages for a bus and then two come along at the same time. In the world of location based or context based computing it’s not exactly the case that there is little happening, but yesterday produced two interesting stories.

I had the pleasure on presenting at the AGI North Where2.0now event in Harrogate. It was a great event, but there was much joking from those who travelled from London and Southern England how far we had travelled.

Well now it’s possible to track exactly how far if you should choose too, as a Google Latitude user I can look at my history and see where I have travelled over a period of time.

As you would expect this is a service you need to opt in to, and by default your history will not be kept. But if you chose to store you history is makes a fascinating record of your travels here for example is my trip to Harrogate yesterday.


Tracking and storing you location is nothing new, John McKerrell has been doing so for a couple of years using his service.

At the conference yesterday he showed the coolest piece of geo hardware seen since the Garmin GPS45, a location clock powered by

If you have ever read any Harry Potter you will be familar with the idea of the Weasley Clock, a magical clock owned by the Weasley family which shows not the time but the location of members of the family and if they are in “Mortal Peril”.

Visit Johns blog to read how he has built a working Weasley clock using a Arduino kit, and great imagination.

So cool !!

Written and submitted from my home (51.425N, 0.331W)

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.

iPhone OS 3.0 loves location.

As Brady from O’Reilly pointed out early this week, the new iPhone 3.0 software and new iPhone 3G S have some major improvements that will further accelerate the development of exciting new location aware applications.

The iPhone now joins the two Android powered HTC phones in having a high quality networked assisted GPS, a digital compass and of course ubiquitous network access, the necessary building blocks for a phone to access information based on its location.

Accuterra Mobile
Accuterra Mobile

We can expect to see more applications that use these capabilities to present information is truly innovative ways like wikitude and sky map, and of course applications which put the phones location core to their functionality, the ZipCar app demoed at WWDC is a great example of this, and you can imagine a range of security or e-commerce application which may be enabled by location in this way.

Imagine your credit card transaction verified in part by the fact you are in the same location as the vendor..

At the same time more traditional mapping users are served by applications like
AccuTerra Mobile which although one of many trail tracking applications aimed a walkers, is generating a buzz because of its high quality topographic mapping data.

This is an obvious market that in the UK we could expect to see an Ordnance Survey partner develop a similar application, indeed it will be a test of the new innovation friendly strategy of the OS to see if a similar application is developed in the UK.

After many false dawns Location based applications are really now with us, and so very accessible, with the new Mapkit framework in iPhone OS 3.0 and similar functionality on Android developing simple mapping based apps has never been more straightforward and crucially with integrated  Application Stores easy to reach potential customers.

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

My Presentation from Being Digital

I have has a number of requests to share my very short slide desk from this weeks, Being Digital Event.. so here it is –

Congratulations to Simon, Tony and Emma on a great event.

Written and submitted from the SPOT Image User Conference, Toulouse.

A different perspective of London

I gave a presentation at the Digital Cities Seminar yesterday and was fascinated by some of the maps Sir Terry Farrell showed as part of his presentation which will be featured in his new book Shaping London.

It is always refreshing to look at how people other than cartographers choose to represent geospatial information, the image below taken from Terry’s presentation show the Thames Gateway, the area of urban redevelopment east of London, and takes its inspiration from Beck’s Underground map.


Thames Gateway
Thames Gateway



Beck’s map (or plan ?) is truly iconic and the map of the Thames gateway uses the Circle Line from it both to provide a geographic anchor for the map and to provide relative scale. I always find it amusing to remind people that one of the most famous maps in the world is the product of a graphic designer based on the principles of laying out electrical circuit diagrams.



Becks Tube Map
Becks Tube Map



In my presentation I made the point that we are increasing moving to a time when maps are customised to an individuals needs, and will become task focused delivered on mobile devices and as a result transient. Indeed for many tasks where a map was once needed a location aware application can provide users with the information they need without a map display.

Just step back and think about this one button from the “infamous” National Rail app for the iPhone.


Next Train Home
Next Train Home


Press it anywhere in the UK, and it will tell you the time of the next train home, and when you would expect to arrive. As a geospatial professional think about all the functionality and data that is hidden behind this simple button, and the analogue sources of information you would need to have access to to provide the answer.

As a Geographer sometimes it hard to accept, but it is still true, that it is often not about the map !!

Written and submitted from the Google Office, London.