PlaceEngine – Sony’s non-GPS location technology

Back at the beginning of June, Sony released its PlaceEngine technology for use on its portable handheld device, the PSP, in Japan. PlaceEngine uses Wi-Fi signals to determine locations, but adds a twist by relying on the help of its users to add to and refine the accuracy of the Wi-Fi locations. PlaceEngine isn’t the first time we’ve seen this technology (Skyhook Wireless comes to mind), but with the outlet to the gaming users via Sony’s PSP, it is taking a different route to the consumer market.

The PlaceEngine website is in Japanese, but Digital World Tokyo has a good summary of the technology in its post about the Sony Computer Science Lab’s annual Open House in Tokyo and a nice image of the PlaceEngine display.

I’m posting about PlaceEngine today because the technology is generating a lot of buzz outside Sony gaming circles, and Digital World Tokyo also reports that Japanese mapping company Edia, which provides navigation software for many devices in the Japanese market, will be releasing a new software product, Pro Atlas Travel Guide, that will incorporate Sony’s technology and make use of the collaborative mapping functionality of PlaceEngine. It will first be available on UMD disk for the PSP in Japan, but expectations are that Edia may also incorporate PlaceEngine functionality into future release of its navigation software for other Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as smartphones.

Also via Product Reviews Net and I4U News

Technology Review talks Second Earth

The online version of the latest issue (July/August 2007) of Technology Review has a fairly comprehensive article by Wade Roush about Second Life, virtual globes, social mapping, and the prospects for merging geospatial technologies and virtual world to create a Second Earth. None of the topics is especially new, but Roush does a good job of providing an overview of the various technologies and players. The main focus of the article, though, is to discuss the possibility of a Second Earth or metaverse and how that might come about. Roush starts off with the most obvious possibility, combining Second Life and Google Earth, but notes that both Google Earth and Linden Labs deny they are working on it. All in all, the article offers a nice synthesis of what’s going on in relation to the development of the metaverse and the convergence with geospatial technologies, and some intriguing possibilities for the next step.

TomTom and Magellan sued by Encyclopedia Britannica

In that twisty-turny world of patents, it seems that Encyclopedia Britannica is going after TomTom and Magellan for infringement of patents it holds for a “computerized mapping system.” The suit was filed in Wisconsin and also includes a retail store, American TV & Appliance of Madison Inc., with no explanation as to why they were included. A number of news outlets are reporting that TomTom has confirmed the suit, but no specifics seem to be available as yet.

Via Engadget

amAze mobile service will offer high-res imagery

LocatioNet Systems, a UK-based mobile mapping and LBS company, announced a partnership with DigitalGlobe to provide high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery for their amAze mobile mapping application (yes that is how it is spelled), which was launched a few weeks ago. The idea is to combine mobile maps and GPS navigation with the same real-time navigation of high-resolution imagery that you can enjoy with full-size Internet browsers, only on your mobile.

Currently, the application is free to mobile users with the appropriate service and phone types (Java-enabled), and can be downloaded from the amAze website I really want to see how well amAze is able to stream and render the imagery on the mobile platform, but of course, none of us has a Java-enabled mobile phone so, while we can’t try it out. Maybe some of you out there will be able to check it out, and let us know how well it performs or even send us some screen shots.

Via SatNews

Japan takes sensor networks to the next level

Apparently next year will see the debut of a new project in Japan to set up a wireless zone on one of its islands that will include sensor networks using IC tags (RFID-based) to monitor residents’ health, pedestrian movements, and even the movements of fresh produce. No word yet on how the tags will be used to monitor people participating in the project. Although the location for the wireless zone has not been decided yet, it will most likely be northern Hokkaido or an island in the Okinawa chain.

Via Textually.org and NationalNine News

Mscape – HP Labs tries some LBS

This project probably has already had some coverage, but I just found out about it, and thought it was worth mentioning. Basically, the mscape project is an initiative from HP Labs to explore location-based services from a social media angle, by creating a set of tools that allow users to create, access, and explore mediascapes, which they define as “mobile, location–based experiences that incorporate digital media with the sights, sounds, and textures of the world around you. A mediascape blends digital images, video, audio and interactions with the physical landscape.” In order to participate in the project, you need a GPS-enabled Windows Mobile device, and you need to download the player software. There is also a toolkit for creating mediascapes which can be downloaded from the project’s software page

The mscape project already has some examples of mediascapes that have been created by HP Labs people and early users, and some of the mediascapes include walks through Bristol in the UK, and in Shanghai. There are also more game-oriented mediascapes and, of course, you can make your own. There are of course numerous applications for a project like mscape, and I think I am going to try it out myself.

BioMapping Project heads to San Francisco

Christian Nold, the creator of the BioMapping Project (which made the blog rounds back in November for the Greenwich Emotion Map), is spending 5 weeks in San Francisco in his latest emotion map project. Using volunteers equipped with GPS receivers and polygraph devices, Nold maps their paths through various areas and records biomechanical data such as elevated heart rate or blood pressure. By combining these data with each volunteer’s personal account of what they experienced, Nold generates maps that show the changes in volunteers’ bio responses, as a way of gauging their emotional reactions as they experience various parts of an urban environment. One interesting point in the news article, is that Nold receives almost daily inquiries about the practical applications of his project for business and marketing.

We will be in the San Francisco area for ISDE5 at the beginning of June, so maybe we will be able to catch up with Christian for an interview if he is still in town.

Via The Map Room and CNN.com

GPS-based Workforce Management launched by AT&T

While taking a break at the Dev Summit, I was catching up on tech news and noticed that yesterday AT&T launched their new GPS-based workforce management service, TeleNav Track, which is provided by TeleNav, but sold through AT&T. The service allows companies to track employee vehicle locations, mileage, send tasks and alerts to employees in the field and gives turn-by-turn GPS directions. So, now The Man can always know where you are, even if they can only guess what you’re doing there.

Via Yahoo!News

Vodafone and Google partner for mobile mapping

Yet another move to expand web mapping into the mobile and location based services markets, as Google and Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile phone network operator, just announced a partnership to develop maps and local content for mobile phones for its Vodafone Live! services. The companies are also developing a service that will provide some customers with an automatic user-location capability.

Via MSNBC and SlipperyBrick

GIS for your BlackBerry

I ran across a press release today for TDC Group’s Freeance Mobile, a suite of web mapping and database applications that promises to bring GIS to your BlackBerry.

Freeance Mobile consists of 3 BlackBerry applications: MapViewer, GPS Collector, and Search, that combine with database capabilities to allow users to perform GIS tasks in the field. However, it carries a heft price tag of nearly $15,000 US. If you’re a large organization that already has BlackBerry’s deployed to your staff, that might not seem like a lot, but is definitely out of reach of many people.

That led me to wonder if any other applications were out their for mobile mapping or GIS on the BlackBerry, and I did find SkyLab Mobilesystems’ Spot for BlackBerry, which has basic mapping and GPS capabilities for only $49 US, but not any kind of database application support.

I am not a BlackBerry user, so I am curious if anyone out there knows of other BlackBerry web mapping applications out there.