Flickr, and a GPS enabled camera phone

I have always been excited about location based services. I’ve found it daft that its taken so long to get a camera integrated with a GPS chip for this amount of time, considering how cheaply available GPS chips are.

Yes, its taken a while for me to go the GPS-phone route… Nokia has had a bunch for a year-18 months already I’m sure (their Navigator phones, the N95, etc.), but for me it all came with the E71 purchase.

I like photos. Its quite natural, that I like Flickr. Its also nice to know that EXIF has so many unused fields, that you can embed location data. Flickr takes the embedded location data and then pairs it with a map. Just look at the following photo of a garden.

The garden

The meta information includes Latitude, Longitude, Altitude, as well as GPS Time/GPS Date. The Time/Date fields seem inaccurate (or non-parsed), but the Latitude, Longitude and possibly the Altitude are very correct.

Unfortunately, when I click “map”, I am disappointed. “We’re sorry, the data you have requested is unavailable. Please zoom out to see more map information or refresh your browser to try again” is the sad message I see. Yahoo! Maps doesn’t work too well… but…. Google Maps does! I enter the latitude/longitude combination, and it shows me street level accuracy. In fact, the phone’s GPS picked up the data almost as accurately as a device from Garmin did.

Flickr (and by this I mean, Yahoo!) should tear down the walled garden, and allow people to let the “map” link point to Google Maps.

How does all this work?
In Flickr, make sure you allow it to Import EXIF location data.

On the E71, I installed Nokia Location Tagger. I run this application, allow it to auto-hide, and the camera does its thing. The only way I know Location Tagger is running, is when taking a photo, has a significant lag, as the GPS data is being written. This software can start in the background – just make sure you have a fairly sensible data plan.

I upload images either via Share Online (direct to Flickr from the camera) or via transferring the images to my laptop and then uploading them. The way it gets to Flickr is immaterial – the location data is embedded in the EXIF tags.

Other thoughts
Some say this is a violation of one’s privacy. Because now, people may know where you live, and stalkers may show up. Sure.

I’ve seen examples of this on Picasa (which integrates with Google Maps, and is cool), but I haven’t used the service myself.

Searching for Creative Commons photos, by location, can be a really useful technology for stock photography. Might this disrupt the industry? Might this help, enhance the industry for someone who harnesses it?


  1. Carolyn says:

    I like camera phones for one reason – geotags. It seems cool to see your pictures show up on a map. I find the hybrid view offered in flickr being the most appealing. Try taking pictures in touristy spots like KLCC and voila, you see the towers on the map with your little album of pictures (click on “go to the organizr”).

    Other than that, cameras on phones still have a long way to go in terms of quality and ease of use. The Nokia N96 button is hard to press and it has no anti-shake mechanism like all the cameras on the shelf today. Almost all my indoor pix exhibited signs of shake and I have a very steady hand.

    Until this improves, it’ll just be another toy which irks me because the price of an N96 can fetch a pretty decent DSLR + standard kit.

  2. byte says:

    From what I understand, the N95’s camera is actually *better* than the one in the N96… in terms of it being shaky and all. Ditto with the N82.

    Maybe its a firmware bug?

  3. Carolyn says:

    The firmware’s been upgraded :(

  4. ShaolinTiger says:

    The N82 is the best camera out there so far, partially due to the xenon flash.

    The N96 camera is definitely inferior to the N95 in terms of the button/ergonomics. But I’m sure the speed and quality will improve with newer firmware.

    The N95 took quite a long time to get into a stable state.

  5. stuart says:

    My current Sony Ericsson the C902, has this feature, but as I can only access it using Optus’ 3g network, which is of course expensive I rarely never use it. Instead I just use a bookmrklet and add the co-ordinates manually, on the images that make it to my flickr stream.

    As for phone cameras and “quality” if I want dslr quality, I’ll use a DSLR, or equivalent, in fact the C902, and the N series nokias are too good imho

  6. Great review! Camera phones with GPS do make geotagging easy, but I wish they were more prevalent. I’m also still waiting for smartphones to have turn by turn directions as good as a standard GPS device. While I haven’t been able to try the Nokia N96 yet, getting directions from my iPhone has been awful.

  7. James says:

    Flickr has been using OpenStreetMap in various places where Yahoo Maps doesn’t have any coverage – Beijing, Baghdad, Kabul, Tokyo, Burning Man.

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