All posts tagged ‘Location’

File Under: Software & Tools

Shout Out Your Whereabouts With Shizzow

Shouting from ShizzowAfter months of private beta testing in Portland, location-based social network Shizzow has launched in the tech-friendly Bay Area. Now the coffee-shop working laptoperati can easily let their friends know whose WiFi they’re soaking up today. Like the location granddaddy Dodgeball, Shizzow is focused on connecting people in real life.

To “shout” from a place, you first search for it by name. Shizzow does not let users broadcast an address or city as a location, in contrast to other services, like BrightKite. Your dashboard shows recent shouts from your friends — the users you’ve chosen to “listen” to, a feature similar to following on Twitter.

Shizzow Dashboard

Privacy on Shizzow is an on/off setting. If in private mode, you must manually accept any listeners. There is only a single level of granularity. BrightKite has trusted friends who get your exact location. Normal friends may only have access to your city, which makes for some useless messages. Shizzow suggests that you only shout when you want someone to know where you are.

One cool feature unique to Shizzow is the ability to edit a listing, or add a new one to the database. While much of the site is built off of local APIs, Shizzow stores a local copy that can be edited Wiki-style by the community. It also means users can creatively name their homes, offices and other locations.

In addition to BrightKite, other Shizzow competitors include Plazes, Loopt and Whrrl. Each service lets you declare your location and see where your friends are. Yahoo’s Fire Eagle, a central platform for storing and sharing location, is also similar. Fire Eagle does not have any social features. Instead, it is more likely to be built upon by Shizzow and similar services. Shizzow does not yet support Fire Eagle, while BrightKite does.

Some will no doubt see Shizzow’s limited feature set as a liability. For example, BrightKite has a beautiful iPhone app, while Shizzow has no plans to create one. The Shizzow team, made up of four Portlanders with full-time jobs, see their focus on core features as a strength. They’re hard at work on an API now, and apparently counting on you to create their iPhone app and additional features.

That’s not to say Shizzow isn’t adding new stuff. It recently incorporated Geode to guess at a user’s location, unleashed SMS shouting and pays close attention to its Get Satisfaction community, implementing many ideas suggested by its users.

If you live in Portland or the Bay Area, let Shizzow know on its invite request form. Then let Webmonkey know how it works for you. All other cities will have to be patient: A public beta is scheduled for March 2009.

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File Under: Uncategorized

Google Geocoding Goes The Other Way

Reverse geocoded location of WiredGeocoding usually refers to taking an address or other location and turning it into a pair of coordinates. You can then plot that coordinate on an online map, or find things near it. Latitude and longitude points are really useful to programs, but not so useful for people.

Google now supports reverse geocoding. If you already have the coordinates, you can now find the address. It’s not perfect, as it often gives a range of addresses, but it sure beats a long string of numbers.

They updated both their HTTP verion and the Ajax version, which means you can reverse geocode from the client side using JavaScript or the server side using whatever you want. Here’s a call to the Wired office coordinates using the HTTP version. Webmonkey has a full geocoder tutorial for server-side geocoding. Note that Google returns coordinates as longitude,latitude, but expects them to be passed to the geocoder as latitude,longitude.

Google released a clickable example map to show off the Ajax reverse geocoder. Drag and zoom the map to the spot you want to reverse geocode, then click. The script grabs the coordinates and prints the address in an info window.

Coordinates on TwitterWith the increase in location-based services, and devices like iPhones and Android phones that have access to GPS, we’ll be seeing more latitude and longitude input. Already I’ve noticed many users on Twitter with latitude and longitude as their location, which isn’t very human-readable. The coordinates are likely for computers, but perhaps now we’ll have a more readable version that also works for humans.

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File Under: Mobile

Gears Geolocation Can Find Your Laptop

Google GearsGoogle released a geolocation API for laptops to Gears, its toolkit for creating cross-browser functionality. This follows its first foray into geolocation, available only for Windows Mobile. While the major feature of Gears is to give applications offline version capabilities, this release brings the possibility of grabbing the location from most major browsers.

The new functions use Skyhook’s Loki technology to map the WiFi signals in your area to your location. The result is highly accurate in urban areas. If this all sounds familiar, you may remember that Mozilla released Geode, a similar plugin, earlier this month.

Both require JavaScript for developers to access the location. The Gears version is frustratingly close in syntax to Geode, the latter of which uses the proposed standard.

As we discussed at the recent WhereCamp, location has some problems right now. WiFi locating is not a good long-term solution, but it’s useable now. For applications that require a location, you can save your user’s the step of typing in their address or intersection by offering to find it with Gears or Geode. Plus, now that we have the interface for accessing the data, we’ll be ready when the real solution comes.

Gears is completely free, both for developers and end users, and available for Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.

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File Under: Multimedia

YouTube Gets Local With API Update

YouTubeYouTube announced V2 of its API, and with it the option to search based on location. Users uploading videos have been able to add geotags for over a year, and they’ve been viewable by location in Google Earth for almost as long. There hasn’t been a way for others to access the location data until now.

Using the API, you can now search videos by location, or a combination of location and a search term. For example, here is an XML result of videos containing the term “internet” within five miles of Wired’s offices.

To implement location search, there are two new parameters, location and location-radius, in the search API. You can find out more in the YouTube API reference.

YouTube also added versioning to its API, and dubbed this new release version 2. Providing the option to bake the version number into API calls means that applications written on top of the API shouldn’t break. Though the YouTube API will move forward, code you write today should still work. In other words, YouTube is preparing for backwards compatibility.

If you’ve written something using the previous YouTube API, you probably ought to toss v=1 into the parameters. On the other hand, if you’re new to all this, check out our YouTube Data API tutorial.

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File Under: Mobile, Software & Tools

Outside.in Pin-Points News Around the Corner

outside.in radar news near Wired officesLocation-aware applications are now a reality, even without a mobile device. Hyperlocal news startup outside.in took advantage of new browser technology to improve its radar feature, which shows news based on your location.

In previous versions of the tool, you had to manually input your address or zip code. If you’re using Firefox 3.1 Beta, or the Geode add-on for Firefox you’ll be prompted to share your location.

Armed with the latitude and longitude, outside.in can display the news nearest you. In urban areas, there tends to be a lot of it, even at the most granular level of 1000 feet. The more rural your location, the less likely there is to be news in your county, let alone your town or neighborhood.

The geo-location accuracy also won’t be nearly as good in less populated areas. Currently it uses Skyhook’s Loki technology to map the WiFi signals in your area to your location. Fewer signals, less data.

Geode requesting my location

We shouldn’t gloss over the importance of the technology. A location-aware application takes away a manual step that the user shouldn’t have to figure out. Where am I? And how does it expect me to enter this information? Eliminating these questions is an important step, even if we just replace them with confusion over accuracy.

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