Friday, December 10, 2004

Zingo - "talk to your nearest taxi"

How do you find a free taxi in London? Just call Zingo and they will connect you directly to the nearest free taxi. The service uses your cell phone to calculate your location and the locations of free taxis. (Read a little more about in Fast company.)

It sounds like a nice service, but mostly in a technical way. Compared to the service I get from Taxi Stockholm, it seems quite basic. I just call a switchboard number, get connected to an automatic service that recognizes my number and asks if I want a taxi to my address. The taxi almost always arrives within less than 10 minutes. I can also talk to an operator if I want the taxi to another address and the operator will know the location of all their free taxis - at anytime, anywhere.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Neat photo album

In the upper right corner of AkuAku's blog you'll find a nice little application to surf his photo album. It shows a simplified globe which you can spin to find a location of interest. Where ever there is a photo you see dots marking it. Double click the dot and you get to see the photos.

The application is based on open source Geosphere from Sourceforge.

Mobile tour info

City councils have a tendency to place plaques and information signs on old buildings and similar "important" locations. A pity is that the information often is a bit limited. HandHeld History wants to help us out and provide a bit more. Their service is built around the circa 800 Blue Plaques in London managed by English Heritage. The plaques can be found on building where a famous person from the past used to reside. You can use their service by wap, sms or even by calling, having the story read to you by Stephen Fry.

With BeyondGuide you can explore Washington DC, New York and Athens. You use your mobile phone and get a tour based on your location. For similar tours, have a look at Soundwalk, Sonicwalk and Sonicmap.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Who is around?

The number of social networking services is constantly growing. Some of them are more socially focused like Friendster (finding friends or dates) and others are more business focused like LinkedIn and OpenBC. Recently several new ones has launched that are based around location. E.g is there anyone I know in this bar?
WhoLivesNearYou.com from Singapore has a simple approach using zip-codes. You can search for people living nearby, similar to a dating service. Danish Hvem er i byen takes a more novel approach. They dub themselves as an electronic gate to the Copenhagen nightlife. They give you a membership card and when you enter a bar or club you swipe your card at the entrance. Then you friends can keep up to date on where you are all night.
On the other hand, if you want something a tiny bit more easy to use, have a look at Wavemarket. Their software lets cellular operators offer services like "friend nearby!" or other types of "location based information". They even have applications that let you, yourself, add location based info ("great bagels to be found here").
Plazes is what it says - about places - and takes into consideration that we actually lug around our computers. Log into Plazes, register your location and you'll get a list of people and "plazes" close to you. You can also enter your own "plazes", which can be whatever you like, as long as it is location based.

Services similar to the above and which I have covered before: a2b, Dodgeball and the friend location service from Hi3G.

Read more about it:

Monday, November 29, 2004

Keep an eye on your employees

Several new applications make use of the gps enabled phones in the US. Both uLocate and Xora has applications that lets an employeer keep track of the movements of the employees. On a map you can see the location of all the employees and their movements. The applications can find the person closest to an address and you can also set up fenced zones. When someone leaves (or enters) a restricted zone the system automatically alerts you.

Useful for field based organisations like service technicians, delivery services, truck companies, taxi's, etc (or for paranoid bosses). Some municipalities are looking into it as a way to track their subcontractors work.

Read more about in:

Monday, November 15, 2004

The geoweb and location aware buddy lists

I can recommend these two articles by Howard Rheingold at the Feature:

The first one is about a recent happening organized by the Institute for the Future about the Geoweb. During the two day event they got to try different ways of geotagging the physical world:

The software enabled us to browse Geographic Information Systems layers
that could be toggled on and off, overlaid over the photomap of Fort Scott. We
figured out how to overlay topographic or demographic or photographic maps,
geonotes and Web searches associated with the locale...

...

The Geoweb, as Liebhold and others envision it today, combines geonote-like user
annotations of places, GIS databases that augment map locations and some kind of
standard protocols that would enable amateurs as well as professionals to
connect physical spaces with cyberspace extensions.

The second article is about location blogging and location aware buddy lists. It mainly discusses what WaveMarket's solutions for location aware blogging. With their WaveBlog you can annotate space and share you tips, the day's happenings, etc in a location aware way. Just use your cell phone to post or browse anything related to where you happen to be. Interesting is that their service does not need to be tied to your cell phone operator.

Other similar companies and projects in this arena are Urban Tapestries, MapTribe and DodgeBall. Hi3G also has a location aware buddy list feature in their 3G network.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Find a hotspot by sms

In hard pressed need to connect to the Internet? Wishing you would now if there was a wifi hotspot around the corner? Today's wifi hotspot directories can help you out, but most of them are not very good at proximity searches. And if you are offline they are of course hard to use.
A UK company, Total Hotspot Ltd., want to change this and help you out. Go to their web page, type in your adress and you'll get a map showing all hotspots in your area. They claim to have every hotspot in the UK in their database and are now extending their coverage to other countries.
Even nicer, now you can send an sms to their service and get a reply with nearby hotspots. Really useful if you are on the move.
More info in this article.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Yellow arrows - functionalistic annotations

Wonder what that yellow arrow with a code on it is? Send a sms text message to 1.646.270.5537 and you right away get back some info. Maybe someone has left a tip on a restaurant or some other useful info.

The YellowArrow project started of in NYC and recently went on to Boston. Now people from everywhere want to buy small yellow stickers and leave their own annotations. You post your annotation on YellowArrow.org and put up your yellow arrow sticker somewhere. On the sticker is a unique number. Anyone seeing the sticker can send a text with the number and recieve the information you posted! Read more about in this Wired article.

Annotating space and objects

Many projects are trying to find ways for us all to freely and easily annotate space and objects. Let's say that you are on a wildlife trekk. Suddenly you take a detour and find the most wonderful view. You think that maybe others passing this place should now about this view. Putting up a post-it on a nearby tree will not be help them, but using your smart cell phone you make a small "Geo Annotation". This annotation will be connected to the location and anyone else passing by, using their own smart phone can search to see if there are any annotations in the area. When they read your annotation they will find your tips about this great view in the vicinity. Using the smart phone with built in gps and map function they can find it themselves.
In the same way you could make a note or diary for yourselves or for your friends that show your vacation trip or just your notes passing through your own city. Maybe you want to make a recommendation for a really nice restaurant that your friends can find if they pass by: Just make a geonote for your friend. Or leave some angry geo-grafiti behind if you do not like the place...

A group at the Swedish Institute of Computer Science did a project called GeoNote a couple of years ago and wrote an interesting paper on the social and navigational aspects. In the paper they raise questions about how to deal with millions of annotations hanging around in space where ever you go. Interesting reading is also this blog entry at the Future Now blog at the Institute for the Future.

Microsoft Research are running a project about annotating the world, e.g. by using the bar codes on everyday objects. Their annotation project is not specifically connected to location, more to objects. When you are in the supermarket, maybe you would want to get some more information on a special product. Just pick up your camera phone, aim at the bar code and search the web for more info. Read more about in this article in The Feature. A recent NY Times article also looks into this projects at Intel and actual applications of similar technology in South Korea and Japan.

Last year Andrea Moed did a project "to develop experiential forms of journalism and nonfiction storytelling for use at specific locations". The prototype was a walking tour in Brooklyn. Sadly the project seem to be paused and you can not view more than screenshots on the webpage.

Start annotating yourself
Maybe you now wonder how you can start annotating while walking around? Mike Maron has made some interesting applications to annotate the world around you and also showing how to map already existing content. His Brainoff blog is interesting reading. Inspired by PeterMerholz's, he has built a geo annotation tool using del.icio.us (a bookmark site where you can store and share bookmarks and recommendations with millions of other users). Tag your bookmarks at del.icio.us and Mike Maron's tool will automatically map them.

If you are curious also have a look at his other mapping tools like this app that maps apartments for rent at Craigslist or this tool that let's you do annotations on a map. Also have a look at Peter Merholz's ideas. He wonders why you can not use Flickr or some of the blogging tools to do similiar things. An application for photo publishing on the web, Web Photos Pro, has a built in tagging solution that let's you do this. Click on "map it: link" in this example to see what I mean. It is not all they way there, letting you show the full track of your last vacation trip through Europe, but is is a start.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Google acquires Keyhole

Google yesterday announced that they are aquiring Keyhole. If you have tried out Keyhole, you know it gives you the exciting experience of flying around the globe, zooming in on almost any place, even seeing into your neighbours gardens. The application incorporates maps, photos and satellite images into a whole, letting you fly, zoom and even tilt the view of the world. You can seamlessly zoom between the different pictures and maps. Then the application has several layers of information, like info on hospitals, ATMs and interesting locations that can be shown onto the view your are looking at. It really needs to be seen, download their trial version.
Now they are going to do things together with Google and I am very curious as to their plans. The obvious would be to integrate it with Google Local, letting you see your Google searches mapped onto the Keyhole views of the world. Other nice things would some integration with Orkut, seeing where all your friends are. (That would be especially nice if they integrated it some new friend fiender services in the new mobile networks.) Mapping of blogs would be nice, seeing where the bloggers are from. My favourite would be if they you let you use it together with Picasa, the digital photo organizer software, that they aquired in July.

The pressrelease from Google
Eweek article
ClickZ article

Monday, October 25, 2004

Creating open standards to geo-enable the Internet and wireless world

The Open Geospatial Consortium is an organisation trying to create standards for interoperability between applications using geo information. The intention is to geo-enable the Internet, wireless and location based services, and also classical IT applications. It is mostly an industry consortium with more than 200 members and they seem to be making a lot of progress.
It started with a need to improve 911 (emergency call number in the US) services. The Federal Communications Commission wanted to automatically have GPS coordinates included from a phone making an emergency call. That way the operator could more easily assist the troubled person calling, know from where the call originated.
From this evolved the standards consortium, now working on a general set of standards for use by software vendors. The standards define things like routing, geo coding and map images.
Read more about in this eweek article. An Economist article about global observation and how this should be done in a coherent fashion to improve for us all.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Any friend in this bar?

How to plan a night out has really changed with the arrival of the cell phone. No meet up with firends in a bar is really fixed, the venue and the time can change at a moments notice, more friends can easily be tracked down and you can move between different groups of friends all night. Just send them an sms text or call them.

3G location services
Now there are a couple of services trying to make finding your friends even easier. In Europe the new 3G networks and services are being marketed heavily. Around every corner there is an advertisement from Hi3G and other 3G players. The other day I went into a Three (Hi3G) store intending to finally get me one of their phones. I was also curious about their built in GPS and A-GPS (can anyone tell me what this actually is?). Sadly I walked out without a phone. The sales rep didn't seemt to be really interested in selling anything or informing me about the included service. He didn't have the Motorola phone with a charged battery and his own phone was awfully slow - not a good sales tool for these 3g networks.
Anyhow, the Three network has a service called Guru with two nice features. First you can call up a map showing where you happen to be, helping you locate nearby businesses. The second a service let's you see if any friends are around. On the map they show the location of your friends - really nice! (Your friends first have to approve this.) If your friends do not have built in gps the positioning can only be +/- 2 kilometers.

Social networks
A similar service, using other solutions, is offered by one of the social networking services. Maybe you are already a member of Friendster, Orkut, LinkedIn or another of these services. The let you register your professional and private network. Then you search your social network, e.g. seeing if your friends, or friends-of-friends, now anyone you want to get in contact with. (The theory is that everyone knows everyone by at most sixth degrees of separation.)
One of these, Dodgeball, has now launched a friend finding service. You send in a text telling where your are, e.g. the name of the bar, and back you get a text telling if any of your friends are within 10 blocks. You can also get tips about bars and restaurants around, sent in by other dodgeball users. An interesting lesson from this is that you do not need fancy, high tech solutions like gps and 3g to do location based services. A simple text with the name of the restaurant your are visiting is enough. Then the central servers can figure out where you are and who's nearby. Simple, easy to use and exact.

It would be nice with a map showing all Dodgeball users and venues. And let's hope Hi3G open up APIs for the web communities and social networking sites to use the Guru service. But probably services similar to Dodgeball will take off before telcos understand that they have more to earn from letting others use their networks simply. Or maybe Dodgeball should do it - having APIs letting others search their geo info - maybe search engines like a2b, Yahoo local and cell phone companies.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Use a2b to find what's nearby

Luckily there are a few companies trying to tie our geographical reality closer to all the information on the web. A good example of this is a2b (www.a2b.cc). They want to open up to Internet users all the existing and possible location based services. It is still at an early stage, but the basics are really nice and they have some nice features coming up. The number of web sites and other information connected to locations (location based information) seems to be growing quickly. To demonstrate some of the nice possibilites they have e.g. added a lot of the degree confluence projects points to the search engine.

To show how it works I have created a "what's nearby" from the a2b site. Click on the button and you will see what is nearby where I am living:

A2B

59.325618.0663

I have done a little bit of e-mailing with Sam Critchley, Founder of a2b, to hear what they are up to. He is telling me that they want to applications (e.g. weblog software) to be able to ping a2b to tell them about their location. (A similar thing was done for the now sleeping geourl.org project for a couple of applications.)
They also want users to be able to search different kinds of "layers". Imagine that you are just interested in sightseeing information or transportation information. You choose the search layer you want for a location and you get relevant info, maybe pictures, history or audio guides.
Already today they have a free gps software that let's you easily integrate your gps with their search engine. The gps software automatically gets the position from your gps and straight away give you search results for your location.

Helping tourists or playing with new gadgets?

The EU is sponsoring a range of projects in the are of location based services and tourism. Giving it a first look you are impressed by the intentions, the vision and the broad scope. Looking at a bit further you start wondering what they are actually up to and if any of the projects can actually turn out anything useful at all. There is a lot of researchers involved and also quite a few companies, from mapping software companies, YellowMap and Lonely Planet to tech companies like Siemens and Motorola.
A couple of the projects are focused on things like mapping and routing. Others on providing information to tourists on PDAs, trying to find out how a user interface should work and what information is useful for a tourist.
Looking a bit deeper into what projects is actually being done you get a bit disturbed and worried by the way it is being done. A lot of the researchers and the projects seems to be very technology focused, everything starts with technology. They seem to want to try six new technologies and gadgets at the same time. Take the m-ToGuide project as an example. The vision of the "m-ToGuide is to become an automated mobile replacement to a human tourist guide. It will be able to lead the tourist, educate him, and help him with last moment changes in a fully trusted and secure way." If you continue reading their project plan and have a look at the at the project goals you find: "m-ToGuide’ s main goal is to promote the use of 2.5/3G cellular networks." Reading about the conclusions and results of the project you once again become surprised on the technology focus. Most of the test users did not want to pay the 12 to 15 pound suggested user price, but the conclusions are focused on tech problems like data transfer speeds and gps coverage in small alleys.
Interesting and enlightning reading is also about the research projects by Prof. Dr. Alexander Zipf who is involved in several of these EU sponsored projects like the Crumpet project for Creation of User-friendly Mobile services Personalised for Tourism.
There is also the AmbieSense project which "wants to use intelligent and wireless context tags lets everybody tag their surroundings and situations. The result is ambient, personalised and context-sensitive access to info systems of the future." Studying it seems like they have seem interesting tests going on, but at least I am struck be the lack of fantasy concerning useful real world applications. This is a technology project and nothing else.

Some conclusions
These projects are interesting and are visionary. The first problem is that they see everything from a technology view, looking for a usage for a technology or seeing the problem as a lack of bandwith, gps accuracy or missing artifical intelligence software. The second problem is that they try several new technologies at the same time. One new technology might be very useful, but trying to tie new not ready things together in the same application is doomed, then the actual applications will be 10 years away, if ever. The third problem is that they do not try to use things that are already exist. There is tourist information content around, there are actually 3g phones and wap phones here, people have PDAs, or what else. Why not try what is there and see if they can make something useful out of it. Especially something that people are ready to pay for.
It is illuminating that most of the companies involved are techies like Siemens. What do they know about tourism?

A yellow page with local info and even location based advertising

German based Yellowmap (the link goes to their information page in English) is a company that has nicely tied together yellow page info and other types of location based information. Like most yellow page sites you can find business and get a map showing the address. Then they have added some other nices services. A simple one, but useful service, for sending a meeting place suggestion to a friend. It just sends a map with a little flag showing where to meet. Neat!
Other nice features is partnerships with content companies providing information on local events, e.g. concerts, movies, etc. They are involved in several research projects aimed at finding more uses for location based services. Encouringly it seems like they have an hands on aproach looking for useful and money making services - not just "high in the sky" research for the sake of testing new technology.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Where is the geocache layer?

If you have had a chance to test Keyhole, you have seen that you can have restaurants, shops and other types of businesses mapped onto the satellite pictures. You can choose different layers, e.g. schools, railroads, airports and other categoriers to be shown. So far only US based adresses, but still a really nice feature.
Now I am looking forward to new layers like geocaches or visits made by the degree confluence project. On the geocaching home page you can have a geocache shown on a map, either by their built in mapping software or by one of the public mappers (MapQuest, MS Terraserver, etc).
Having all local caches or all degree confluence visits mapped in Keyhole would be something else.

Geocaching - a high tech treasurehunt

Geocaching is not for people hiding stolen treasuers. It is a hobby, a sport, a game; something for people who want to get outside doing some high tech searching and hiding with their gps. It is spreading everywhere and even in remote countries like Afghanistan you can go looking for geocaches.
So, what is it actually? It is a trease hunt. Someone hides a geocache, write down the coordinates and a couple of clues on how to find it. You take your gps and tries to find it. If you find it, you log your visit in the logbook found in the geocache and also put a note on the geocaching webpage. Maybe their even is a small treasure for you to find, like a coin or a toy. You take the treasure and leave another behind for the next treasure hunter.
Their are a multitude of versions of this game, like moving treasures, puzzles and even events when lots of people get together at the same time. There is more than 100.000 geocaches to be found in more than 210 countries! Go to the geocache web page now and see if their is a geocache close to you.

Read more about it all in wikipedia or in one of these articles.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Take a flight over your own house with Keyhole

I have just spent a couple of hours with Keyhole. It is a magical tour, you really get hooked - at least I did. I have done great inflight over Milano, following different streets right up to our old apartment and continuing in to the Doumo in the city center. Then my flight path continues on to Greece and the Pantheon.
If you haven't heard about Keyhole you might be mistaken thinking this is some flight simulator. Keyhole is something totally different. It is a tool to blend different sets of geo information, mostly satellite pictures, but it can also be your own pictures. You kind of browse the globe, zooming into places that interest you. Maybe you want to have a closer look at a street in Paris? Just zoom in and there you go. The software al the time streams the relevant pictures over the internet to your client software.
If you are looking for something in the US, you can type in an adress or even the name of a business, then keyhole flies you there. The resolution of the data is really different depending on the area of the earth. They seem to favour places of media interest, so if want to take a closer look on Baghdad or Afganistan, this is the tool for you.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Talk about geospatial search at Web 2.0

The Web 2.0 conference has just happened. Geospatial search has been mentioned a couple of times and there was a panel about the issue led by Tim O´Reilly. The most interesting shown at the conference in this arena seems to be the presentation by Keyhole.
Otherwise the panel seemed to have discussed mostly around what exactly have to be done to make this take off. There are lots of companies like Mapquest, Microsoft, etc doing interesting stuff, but nothing that is lives up to the standard of killer app, consumer-instant-love.
Keyhole has added a feature for the users to geo-annotate and maybe that is the way to go for the others. The other way would of course be if the search engines could use all the geo tags alreay out there on the web.

Local search
There is a lot of talk about the "local" versions of Yahoo and Google and also at the conference. I wonder why the focus of these features are so focused on finding businesses (the local coffe shop). What I want is information about the coffe shop, or even better, tips: Has someone written a recommendation about a coffe shop nearby? Maybe there is even a picture of it? Anything interesting that I should now that has happened here or an event that is going on? Is there maybe a concert here tonight?

At the theunofficialgoogleweblog you can read an interesting comparison of the local versions of Yahoo and Google. In april eweek had an interesting article about localized search and the local advertisment market that the search companies is trying to reach.

Read more about Web 2.0 and comments about the panel on the Zawodny blog and at O´Reilly Network. I

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Mapping your photos

Don't you find it hard to index your photos? Some people have the patience to put their photos in an album and maybe even make a small note. When you get your first digital camera you suddenly start taking lots more photos and making notes on them all can be a hassle. There are some nice ideas around on how this can be done better.
One way, that I would like, is if you can have all your photos mapped. On a map you could see small dots showing where you have taken your photos. Then you could easily find photos from you last vacation to Bahamas or the trip a few years ago to Paris. If the photos were timestamped you also easily follow a trip you have done.
Sorry to say there are not many digital cameras around with built in gps. An exception is a Ricoh camera. Some people time sync their gps and their camera. Then they can use this to tie photos to a location and others do it manually. Anyway, it is still a hassle.
There are a few web sites around where you can upload your geo-photos. One example is the World Wide Media Exchange, which as a Microsoft Research project, but still an early version with not that many photos. Other examples are Geosnapper or Happysnapper. None of these are - so far - really large. On some blogs and photo blogs people are including geo coordinates, but there is no way to really search for them
It would be nice if sites like Virtual Tourist and Worldisround could include location coordinates and on a map show the sent in photos.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The phone book with photos

Today you expect your yellow pages to supply you not only with adress, you also want a map and driving directions. You might even be supplied with a list of nearby restaurants, pharmacies and gas stations. But even if you get those nicely detailed directions you still get lost sometimes. Would it not be nice with a photo of the place you are looking for?
In France you can get that at Pages Jaunes which is a part of France Telecom's Yellow Pages. You just navigate their easy interface (even for a non french speaker) by zooming your way to the place you are looking for or by typing the adress. When your cursor changes into a pointing hand you know that there is a photo. Just click and the photo of the building shows up! Beautifully done and easy to use. You can navigate your way down a street if you want to, getting photos of all the street corners you need to turn.
I do not know how extensive the database is so far, but at least central Paris seems to be well covered.

In Spain there is a similiar project going on called Callejero fotográfico, but it does not seem to be as extensive yet as the French site.

In the future, expect some digital cameras to have gps integrated. Then all those photo albums on the web should be searchable by location and you could easily find a photo of the place you are looking for! E.g. "I wonder how that restaurant really look like, is it as nice as the guide book says... let's do a search". It would be nice to know if location aware cell phones with cameras include the location in the photo?

Monday, October 11, 2004

GeoTagging

Maybe you´ve already heard about GeoTagging? Basically it is a way to mark web pages with a location. Using this tag you can then see the location of e.g. a business or the place associated with a what you are reading about. The geotag use a standard html way to embed the location in your web pages and is really easy to implement. If you want to geotag your own pages it is no hard work. Just use a mapping site - e.g. maporama - to find the coordinates you need and then use the geotag in your own web pages.
The geotag has been around for a couple of years, but has so far not really taken of. You can of course use a standard search engine to look for web pages with geotags, but there are not many search engines around that do it the other way. One of the few is geotags, which lets you see geotagged web pages on a world map. You can zoom in and see if there is anything interesting around you. Geotags is nice, but still a bit crude and you need to submit you tagged pages for them to show up on the map.
There are a few companies that is starting to this the other way around - that is, searching for geographical references ("I live 5 miles from the city center of Milan") in documents and indexing them with geotags. I will get back with a more extensive post on that in a couple of days.
A really nice application that uses the geotags that can be found, is the Network Cameras World Map. It has used Googles to search for web cams which have geotags and mapped these. You can see all the cameras and see if there is one close for you. A really nice usage of geotagging! (Minkymorgan, who is behind the web page, has also made other uses of geotagging. E.g tagging al his photos.)
There are lots of applications of these and it is surprising that we have not seen any examples yet. Where is the search engines that goes through all your local real estate agents web pages and maps their objects for sale onto a map?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Connecting to the world with SpotCodes

The New York Times today has an article about SpotCodes, a way to mark things in the real world and then use your phone to find more information. Let's say you find a SpotCode at bus stop, you aim your cell phone with it's digital camera at the SpotCode and your cell phone directly retrieves info on when the next bus arrives.
These marking are supposed to be easy to create and they can be put anywhere: on advertisment, in shop windows, on taxis, anything you want to easily be able to find more information about. It is a bit like a bar code, but easier to decipher for a digital camera in a cell phone.
The trick seem to be that your cell phone need to have a digital camera and software to decode the SpotCode or markings with the same effect. In Japan there is already some usage of a similar technology and it has gained some popularity.
At bango.net/spot you can download software that let's your phone read the SpotCodes.

Where is there a pub?

The Good Pub Guide har just released a nice lite service for anyone longing for a pint. Just send them an sms and back you will ge a text back telling you where there is one close by. The service finds out your location and starts searching for the closest pub. Useful for the person lost in unknown territory... If you have a wap-phone you will even be able to get a map to help you. Read more at The Register

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Your own personal city guide in the earphones...

Finally someone is taking a new approach to city guides. Sonicwalk has made a cityguide for New York that they offer on CD and in mp3 format for downloading. (You can also rent a device with the city tour for a few hours.) You print out their map and follow their suggest trail. On the way you stop and listen to what your portable audio guide has to say about sights, buildings, etc. It is a city tour that you take in your own pace and as you yourself like.

This is quite similiar to what you probably have seen in museum the last few years. You rent a little audio player for the duration of your visit and it tells you about what you see. The approach of Sonicwalk of course takes this one step further. You can by it and download it in your mp3-player. You can listen to it before and do a bit now and then of the tour. The possibilities are boundless. Maybe we will see lots of different types of tours: for the children, architecture, history, design, etc. And maybe you can yourself set together the package that interests you. Their are some many people out there that are guides or that have a passion for their city. Maybe this will be their a new way for them to publish their story and let others share in as they tour a city.

Surprisingly there is not many other examples such as Sonicwalk. Their is something like it that has been done for a few Italian cities, but on CD. If you visit Vienna you can try out Your Friend, but maybe they should have someone native speaking doing the english version. A few other examples can be found, but not many. A company called Sonicmap is taking a wider approach, a kind of blogging version for audio mp3 city guides.

It will be interesting to see if the cellular operators is going to use this. In the new 3G phones and the networks that have built in positioning, it should be possible to offer nice services like this to tourists and other city strollers.