Geolocalize photos with a BlackBerry Bold

Geo-localization is a popular subject today. This technology allows to locate photos on maps of sites like Flickr Google Picasa. But geo-localization is also used to tag photos with location information to better identify or find them later. Different solutions exist, often expensive.
Trying to use the GPS feature on my BlackBerry Bold, I discovered two applications, GPSed and gpicsync, whose association can easily tag my shots.

GPSed

This application is not designed to manage photos. This software manages GPS chip of smartphones, in order to

  • Get geographic coordinates longitude, latitude, elevation …
  • Store these information into a file, or internet.

This application is part of an overall service (see publisher’s website ). It has two versions: a Pro version (commercial), and a standard version (free). GPSed is available for various platforms, including BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian or iPhone.

In addition to geographic information already mentioned, the application can serve as a compass, or tachometer. The application is composed of four main screens. The transition from one screen to another is through the BlackBerry trackball.

When we active the GPS tracking, the software asks if we want to share collected information on the Internet. On the Pro version, this sharing can be done directly with services like Facebook or Twitter.

Tests summary:

  • GPS tracking is accurate, whatever the speed of travel (hiking or traveling by car),
  • The sampling frequency is around 10 per minute,
  • Indications of speed is accurate also (information consistent with the speedometer of my car),
  • I am not confident about altitude,
  • Tracking files can be stored on a memory card and the software has a function to convert these files into GPX format.
  • With the GPS activated, the battery consumption is reasonable. Autonomy is less impacted than the Wifi or Bluethooth

GpicSync

This application works with Windows, Linux and MacOS, and is distributed under GPL license.

The operations of the application are quite simple: From a file format GPSX, and a directory, the application geo-locates (tags EXIF / IPTC) any JPG and/or RAW photos, located in the specified directory.

gpicsync can also generate files Google Earth (KMZ / KML) or Google Map.

Tests summary:

  • The application is very simple,
  • Operations require a minimal manipulation,
  • By default, only the GPS coordinates are included, so don’t forget to check the options before starting the procedure,
  • Fields used are standard IPTC fields (Country, region, city, …),

The main drawback of the software comes on the accuracy of information included:

  • All is ok for fields country, region, and city,
  • But for the other fields, we have an information such as « 1.8 kilometers from downtown ».

This kind of information is not interesting for indexing/search features. I would be better to have keywords such as « beach », « Grandparents House » « School », « Forest … ».

Conclusion

GPSed is a simple and effective. Without mapping features, functionalities are limited. But it can be used by hikers, or travelers wishing to calculate the distance traveled, or average speed. Associate gpicsync, the software also allows the visualization of the path traveled, through the Google tools.

From a photography point of view, is there any added value to use these tools? The answer depends on the objectives.

If the target is to load the images in tools like Google Earth, Google Maps, Flickr … then using these two tools is very efficient, because all is automatic.

We don’t have this efficiency the goal is to tag the photos with information used in indexing, or search tools:

  • Tagging manually photos with location information is often fast: we select a large number of photos at once, then we enter information in 4 fields,
  • The locations specified must be meaningful or symbolic (we rarely enter « 38 Main Street », but rather « Parents house »). Software don’t know this kind of subtlety: the information found is purely geographical.

For these arguments, I won’t use this method for the time, and continue entering manually location tags to be more effective. But I keep an eye on the software gpicsync, whose potential is still evolving.